The Animals and Children Took to the Streets
If I ever discover that there’s a handsome trust fund in my name, I’m going to do a lot of things. One of those activities would be to attend every Under the Radar Festival at The Public. But since I have to work all the time, I'm happy that a little piece of that awesomeness is playing down here at Studio Theatre—which thankfully has again brought to DC a wonderful company from abroad. Co-founded by Paul Barritt and Suzanne Andrade, London-based 1927 is currently kicking ass with The Animals and Children Took to the Streets. Go see it right now.
Animals is about a scummy, roach-infested, derelict tenement complex called the Bayou. It’s located on Red Herring Street, the armpit of a prosperous city with "milk and honey in every Frigidaire," and with the exception of a lone Caretaker (who has been saving for seven years to buy a one-way ticket out of town), the seedy and rowdy inhabitants of the Bayou remain forgotten. Life plods on until the surprisingly clean, kind and polite Agnes Eaves and her daughter Evie move into the Bayou. Shocked by the behavior of the child gangs around her, the idealistic Agnes becomes determined to change their hearts through nonviolence and macaroni art, despite their unrelenting actions. Meanwhile, the city’s powers-that-be are hatching an elaborate plan to stop the insanity once and for all.
The play’s rich world of characters and locations comes to life with only three actors and three simple projection screens. Vivid props and costumes add dimension, but it’s Paul Barritt's animations that create the world of the show—they never overwhelm, but blend with the actors nicely to create the play’s creepy, bleak and darkly comical tone. Andrade directed the piece and portrays a number of the characters, including my hands-down favorite, The Caretaker. Lillian Henley, composer of Animals’ beautiful silent-film score, also acts in the show and croons Jazz Age-style from her small apartment window. Esme Appleton designed the costumes and plays the two waif-like heroines in this tale: slum new-recruit Agnes Eaves, and Zelda, the scheming leader of Red Herring Street’s “Pirates” gang. (Lillian Henley? Esme Appleton? Could it be more delightful that these are their real names?)
I loved this show. The word SPECIFICITY wouldn’t leave my mind throughout—1927 has developed a unique performance style that is brilliantly crafted and flawlessly performed. Every step, twitch and word had a purpose. The aptly named troupe knows its strengths, understands its influences and uses them well. While there are very clear ghosts of Buster Keaton, Metropolis, Lillian Gish, etc present, along with more modern touches that reminded me of An American in Paris and the playfulness of Tim Burton, this is no pilfer. 1927 translates its silent-film sensibilities with expertise. They also manage to elevate a fairly pedestrian storyline into something fun and cleverly smug: it would be easy to go political with this piece—for both you right or left wingers—but fortunately the work never gets starry-eyed or preachy. And because I’m me, I’d like to point out that this is a show that throws the bullshit prejudice of woman-made theater (“surely it will be about womynz issues!") out the window. If you want to see real craftsmanship, see these ladies own the room.
Short URL: http://bit.ly/MhV8NZ