Thought-provoking work reveals new perspective on untold war crimes
|Infusion Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Infusion Theatre presents the world premiere of Allotment Annie. It’s 1944. Americans are fighting off the Germans overseas. Meanwhile, war crimes are being committed right here on the home front. A friendly Poughkeepsie, New York tavern welcomes the military. Fran and Virginia will dance, screw and marry any service guy that walks in the door. The gals share a mutual sentiment that these men won’t be coming home. So, they decide to support them by whatever scheme they can. Is it for patriotism, love or money? Allotment Annie doles out the seedy side of war from the home court advantage.
Playwright Mark Mason pens a rare tale of the shenanigans that went on during the chaotic war years. His interesting and disenchanting angle goes against the typical American patriotic stories. It’s fascinating. In particular, the climatic end to Act 1 is a riveting shocker. Under Bridgette Harney’s direction, the ladies own the stage. Kate Black-Spence is outstanding in a complex role. She starts out as a sweet, timid bartender and morphs into a totally different persona (I’m being intentionally vague so as not to spoil the experience). A vivacious Amy Rapp (Virginia) frolics with an unsettling playfulness and neediness. The relationship between Black-Spence and Rapp is this weird but endearing co-dependency.
Mallory Nees is alluring in multiple parts. In each of her roles, Nees plays someone completely separate from the tavern world. She doesn’t interact with the rest of the ensemble. As a military radio personality, Nees sings and reports disconcerting news bulletins – unfortunately the power of her narrative interjections is lost because of her stage position. Nees awkwardly stands in front of a column, with her back to most of the audience, basically serenading the wall. The impact of her presence to the story is never actualized. In addition, the stunning ending of Act 1 is watered down as Act 2 limps to the play’s conclusion. During intermission, I anticipated a quick, decisive reveal in Act 2. Instead, there are multiple unnecessary scenes with extended blackouts. The blackouts are faux finale teasers. I think part of the lengthy transitions were caused by wardrobe changes. Although Costume Designer Rachel Sypniewski dressed the ladies in vintage splendor, there could have been less costumes for a smoother pace. After all, it’s wartime.
Still, Allotment Annie is thought-provoking. It provides such a different perspective on untold war crimes. The Nazis weren’t the only bad guys!
Allotment Annie continues through February 3rd at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $15-$25, and are available online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at InfusionTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Tom McGrath
behind the scenes
Bridgette Harney (director); Jenna Stworzyjanek (choreographer); Dave Ferguson (set); John Kelly (lighting); Stephen Ptacek (sound design); Rachel Sypniewski (costumes); Devyn Mares (props); Majel Cuza (production manager); Jason Crutchfield (stage manager); Jamie Bragg (asst. director, dramaturg); Claire Tuft (casting); Tom McGrath (photos)