Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: A Quirky Little Love

The romantic comedy is a genre that has been done to death. Discovering new ways to share the tale of two people in love is almost a necessity to be considered refreshing. Fortunately Hand Grenades by Monica Giordano put a quirkily odd spin on the lovers saga. Like something out of the Sarah Ruhl Book of Magic(al realism), Hand Grenades tells the love of Diana and Ophelia. And then Diana and Troy. With betrayal and the loss of love as major themes, Hand Grenades gives a fresh take on how this story can be told. With Troy and Ophelia both donning a raincoat to narrate the highs and lows of Diana and her lovers, Giordano provides a script that sings with poetry and rhythm. There's a natural musicality to Giordano's world. Director Rebecca Cunningham assists in the tempo of the scenes by bringing in subtle music or the proficiently brilliant idea of a metronome. By crafting the script by announcing the day number in the relationship, Giordano doesn't need to show the in-betweens that the audience can fill in themselves. This allows the meat of the story to develop. The only trouble that Giordano ran into was finding a way to like Diana and Troy. Sure love is random but hurting someone in the process and accepting it is usually hard to allow.
photo by Jessica Osber
The trio of actors was simply delightful. As Ophelia, Elizabeth Gray was purely divine. She has a genuine comedic aura that came out effortlessly. Gray’s quick wit and charisma allowed Ophelia to be loved. Kristina Mueller as Diana radiates that magnetism of attraction. It’s no wonder Ophelia and Troy would want to be around her. Despite her character’s action, Mueller makes you question her deeds. As Troy, Chris Fayne gave a solid performance keeping up with the ladies. Though his character doesn’t truly come in until about half way through, when he wore the narrator, well, coat, Fayne was solid.
Director Rebecca Cunningham went bold in this production. To truly provide a unique experience, Cunningham and scenic designer Lacey Ballard strayed away from typical items like, oh you know, chairs and tables, substituting them with metal buckets. And cups? How about tin cans! Cunningham kept with this theme without straying, allowing her vision to be unified. Even if there was not a single metaphor for what each item represented, Cunningham allowed you to think of the bigger meaning. It was truly a unique way of storytelling. The only trouble Cunningham ran into was with the overhead projector. Thrown onto a fabric drop, Cunningham and lighting designer Chelsie McPhilimy relied heavily on the overhead projector as a source of light and information. The actors used the sheets on the projector to write but sadly, it was illegible. You want to give credit where credit is due so whether it was simply sound designer Dorothy James or a joint collaboration between James, Cunningham, and Giordano, the soundscape of Hand Grenades was pure perfection.
Hand Grenades is quirky romance that lives in its own special world. You might not understand everything about it, but you have to appreciate something a little different from the mundane.