A FROGGY BECOMES - Open Fist at Atwater Village Theatre

An Open Fist Theatre Production

Reviewed by Chris Cassone   cc@chriscassone.com

Teenage angst is coming earlier and earlier for the youth. Mine started around fourteen and peaked when I got my driving license at sixteen. For Bumpy Diggs, it's seventh grade or around twelve years old. And Sandra Kate Burck was masterful in the non-stop chatter role of Bumpy as she came of age well before her pals in school. At least she learned a major lesson in life by the time she had been kissed, cheated on, lied to, betrayed and marginalized.

            Her spunk is what drives this engine and Burck elevates her kid role to a universal one with real human feelings that all ages can identify with. Constantly in an aside with us, almost like we are BFFs, she is the ultimate storyteller. With her broad smile and infectious friendliness, we let her go on and on about her friends and family, until one line cannot be ignored.

"The thought of my mother having sex grosses me out in the most indescribable way," - a throw-away line she delivers after she catches her mom and the pastor canoodling in the outhouse. Yet, it hits home, and we laugh and shudder simultaneously.

            Writer Becky Wahlstrom has quite a future in front of her with this little gem. Not only is her writing like a heat-seeking missile of truth, but she also creates a world that we not only recognize but enjoy living in. Her script of constant movement and constant dialogue brought us into the world of these teens: from Jimmy's opening breakdance (with a limber Jeremy Guskin) to Bumpy's closing plea capped with "Not today, Defeat!"   Wahlstrom has a clever eye yet still relies upon the tender human moment to which we all can relate.

            A psychologist might drill down to say she has some issues with a male alcoholic in her past as the Ogre is a larger-than-life belching-scratching-commanding brute. This giant puppet, run by a handful of puppeteers (he was that big,) was hard to behold after a while.   Seems, his flatulence is accepted by all of the family, but he wasn't overtly funny. He was gross, with a side of gross, with his sledgehammer hands. Just another aspect of Bumpy's life that she had to overcome. And when she finally tells him "No!" that begins Bumpy's ride to her breaking of her chains. Little Burck did a masterful job in that transformation, especially with her speech about that one Froggy who jumped the bowl to freedom. As she delivered it, she got freer and freer until, at the peak of the oratory, she becomes the free frog. Silly. But clever and true.

Another award should be given for the outstanding text-a-thon that ripped through the class, with all the logic of a game of classic "telephone." When no one knows the truth, just the idea of what might be true can burn through the airwaves like a prairie fire. And we see it happen in real time.

            A word about the production. Clearly, this was true teamwork as the production design along with the costumes all worked. Each scene had a TikTok feel. It had to grab your interest and do it with the best effect of a school production: multi-colored boxes for desks that the students walked onstage with. Don't forget he transformation into the woods: a couple of branches and a sign that says "Woods."

The best dance number of the night was the Zombie dream of Day-Glo and blacklights. Producer Martha Demson, Scenic Design & Lead Carpenter Jan Munroe, and Costume Designer, Mylette Nora, all need to be singled out as a team that delivered together. And that happens under good leadership, with all roads pointing to director Pat Towne.

             A Froggy Becomes  runs until April 13 but don't wait. Get to the Atwater Village Theater now for a little lesson in teenage redemption.

Posted By DH Magazine on March 15, 2024 05:17 pm | Permalink