Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Vengeance is Sweet

Geek theater isn’t a new form but it’s certainly hitting it’s stride. With so many theater artists taking risks in this genre, it’s nothing short of exciting to see the culmination and product of vibrant ideas. In Vampire Cowboy’s latest offering, Six Rounds of Vengeance by Qui Nguyen, a ragtag team of bandits set out to rid the world of evil in a post-apocalyptic Lost Vegas overrun by Long Tooths.
On a mission of vengeance, an unlikely trio of heroes set out to defeat some high-fighting vampires in Qui Nguyen’s sci-fi geek chic dark comedy Six Rounds of Vengeance. Sprinkled with pop culture references, layered with humor within the heart, and filled with top notch sword fights, Six Rounds of Vengeance is one of those theatrical experiences you wanted but didn’t realize you needed. Malcolm, a former cop, and Jess December and Lucky, a pair of bounty hunters, cross paths to discover that they each have a history of loss that need to be avenged. On their journey to exterminate Queen Mad, leader of the Long Tooths, the trio goes on a journey of self-awareness, discovering the truths within themselves and their pasts. Nguyen’s script is witty, gritty, and fun. The characters that Nguyen has fashioned are not cookie cutter sci-fi types. They have depth. Certainly the conceit of the show, a play about vengeance, aids in giving the characters colors. Love, loss, and identity bring these characters to fight to justice. But sometimes when justice is in reach, letting go is the suitable finale. The play moves quickly and has room to build. However the video package at the start and middle of the show are a bit jarring. There certainly could be a stretch to link the videos to the play itself, but it is a stretch.
With unlikely characters taking center stage, an unlikely cast of actors get the privilege to be action stars. What makes Six Rounds of Vengeance special is in the film world, the ensemble likely would not be cast in these roles, yet on stage, they fit wonderfully. Sheldon Best as soft-spoken sassmaster Malcolm had some projection issues but his police turned cowboy demeanor was quite strong. Jamie Dunn and Tom Myers had great chemistry as bounty buddies Jess and Lucky. Dunn’s Jess doesn’t seem like a badass on the surface but she displays some killer moves. Myers’ Lucky has a great story to build on and you love him even when he turns into the Sabretooth like creature. While Jon Hoche and Nicky Schmidlein get the glory of playing an abundance of parts, it’s when they portray their evil alter egos do they truly come alive. Schmidlein, like Dunn, has some incredible fight and sword-wielding skills. Schmidlein’s Queen Mad is a wonderful love-to-hate villain.
Journey plays can always be difficult to portray on stage. On paper, Six Rounds of Vengeance may seem better suited for film, but director Robert Ross Parker does a phenomenal job making it work brilliantly on stage. Through theatrical magic and innovative staging, the piece flowed seamlessly. Parker brought the nuances of Nguyen’s world to life. His vision made this well-rounded production cohesive. Nick Francone played double duty as scenic and lighting designer, two of the strong aspects of the design. Francone’s set lived in sepia glory and brought color via light. The usage of broken billboards were simple enough to evoke the setting. The videos by Matthew Tennie were an incredible addition that assisted in the movement of the world. The costumes by Kristina Makowski were wonderful, blending pre and post apocalypse nicely. The score by Shane Rettig was exactly what the piece needed to reflect the film aspect of the script. Rettig’s music was noticeably subtle in all the right ways. Even the action sound cues were wonderful and appeared in the right places.
Geek chic theater is alive and well. Six Rounds of Vengeance is a high-powered, energy-filled exciting night of theater.