Tina Satter’s direction and Half Straddle’s pitch-perfect company establish and then maintain an unblinking focus that cuts through the dissipating fog and rewards the audience’s taut attention.
The Making of King Kong sets out to unpack the monstrosity of our current cultural moment via the monkey, simultaneously evoking a 1930s acting style (transatlantic accents abound) while complicating itself with very-much-now identity politic-infused dialogue.
While the subject matter is dead serious, the style and aesthetic approach feels giddy, unafraid of big stupid choices when they’re appropriate.
There is pain, hurt, lovesickness for miles in every direction, emanating from this club across the country, world, and intergalactic beyond.
What makes this Oklahoma more than just smart is how it ruthlessly strips away the glaze of nostalgia that usually accompanies such restagings in order to uncover what seemingly must have always lurked there, submerged just below the musical’s glossy surface.
Payne keeps his audience from jumping ahead to any particular conclusion by deploying a second (bigger, metatheatrical) frame around Karma’s story, one in which the house lights keep coming up and we are rendered, without a choice, visible – to the actors, to the audience, and (most disturbingly) to ourselves.
Their movement allows them to take up all the space, filling the stage all the way to the frame.
We share our sweat, our humidity, our heat. We weather it, as Kelly does inside the box.
What was I doing? Why was I here? What had I hoped to achieve from this? So many people I didn’t know! Communal living having its obvious benefits, but not that easy to suddenly just find one’s self there in the thick of it.
Hammel draws us in to her experience, while granting us a bit of separation from the material itself (which is unrelentingly bleak, flirting with misogyny, although its view of the male specimen isn’t without contempt either).
This is Peter Pan set in a dystopian futureland, the music acting as a remnant of a memory of a time when feeling was more possible, when childhood was more innocent; before we found ourselves up against a neon wall, staring out at the void, attempting to determine if we’ve (finally, like Peter did when he flew back one night only to find the window closed against him) reached a point of no return.
How do you deconstruct a deconstruction?