Review: Season Pass (The Plagiarists)

| September 19, 2014
Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)        
      
Season Pass

Written by The Plagiarists  
Directed by Mary Rose O’Connor, Paul Kastner
The Frontier Storefront, 1106 W. Thorndale (map)
thru Sept 28  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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A fantastic journey through space and time – and you may just die along the way

     

Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)

    
The Plagiarists presents
    
Season Pass

Review by Jacob Harmon

The “Choose Your Own Adventure” concept can be a genius gimmick when exercised with originality. It can turn the most predictable story into a complete mystery, allowing the destination to be an unnatural follow-up from the journey. Even when you think you are making the right choices, the end result may be the opposite of what you expected. The Plagiarists have perfected this idea in Season Pass, having crafted a surreal sci-fi thrill ride that is as unpredictable and hilarious as anything I have seen in a very long time.

Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)Formed in 2007, The Plagiarists have a history of unique shows that push the boundaries of how we view theater. To call them “experimental” would be misleading; they have proved their vision to be clear and exact over the years, creating a line of shows that will be remembered for their madness and originality. They do have their influences, though: Season Pass feels like a classic episode of “Star Trek” or “Doctor Who”, with a healthy dose of the stylings of Monty Python. However, no episode of “Star Trek” ever included a line so gleefully filthy as, “if I wanted any lip from you, I woulda smelled your zipper”. The Plagiarists revel in creative, disgusting wordplay. Sentences never before uttered are featured in this show, as are ideas never before presented. I left feeling enlightened. Exciting theater exists, and this is it.

Season Pass is directed by the Greenhouse Theater’s Mary Rose O’Connor and The Plagiarists’ own Paul Kastner. Both have long, respected histories in directing. When seeing their new show, the direction may seem simple, but the work that went into creating this particular vision is incredible. I was invited to pick a couch in a small, intimate lounge area after entering the Frontier Storefront (which is not just a name—it is actually an old storefront fashioned into a theater). Audience members are given a white paper plate with a spoon glued onto it. One side is painted black. What follows is a journey through the ocean, the human body, and through the space-time continuum. About half of the storefront is a very tiny theater that sits sixteen individuals. Throughout the show, the audience enters and exits for four different segments. The paper plates come into play when they are given the opportunity to choose the course of the segment’s story. It is a small idea that grows into a sense of power; then you quickly realize that the play has a (sick/twisted) mind of it’s own, warping your decisions into nightmare scenarios that will cumulate in the audience living or dying.

Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza) Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza) Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)

The small set designed by Melissa Schlesinger feels like it could fall apart at any moment, which adds a sense of wonder (and horror). It seems to be mostly cardboard, with buttons and trinkets added depending on the segment. As the audience are passengers in a ship, the focal point is the control station in the middle of the stage. You are right there, so close to the actors that there is constant, direct physical contact. Not only do the performers speak to the audience – we become playthings for them. Sitting in the front row, I was grabbed multiple times (never in a manner that made me feel uncomfortable). The actors use every inch of the space with a frenetic energy that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Emma Cullimore’s costumes are blue collared jumpsuits, with certain characters donning vests made of duct tape. Fish float by the stage, blood cells wander. Dinosaurs are devoured by their larger counterparts. Any actor not playing a role in the segment controls these puppets (created by James Snyder), ensuring that a large number of strange events are occurring onstage at once. Expect sudden flashes of red light (for bombs) and other effects (for time travel) designed by John Jacobsen. These are startling moments that are softened by the humor that accompanies them.

Only two of the cast members are Plagiarists; Sara Jean McCarthy and Jessica Saxvik are veterans who craft extremely memorable characters that are frightening, hilarious psychopaths. They are given lines so foul and disgusting, I spent much of the play in tears of laughter. The rest of the cast is composed of guest players, all of whom are gifted comedic performers. Bizarre characters rise from the depths of sci-fi, such as Nick Freed’s telephone-handed Captain and Alexandria Frenkel’s unintelligible Grat (Frenkel has an undeniable talent at disappearing into any role she is given). Ken Miller and Wes Needham portray stock characters turned idiosyncratic by their strong performances. Charlesanne Rabensburg is particularly a standout; a force of nature portraying two strange characters; her facial expressions evolve from radiant friendliness to maniacal mischievousness in the span of a single line reading.

By the end, Season Pass reaches an unexpected sense of satisfaction. True to its choose-your-own-adventure roots, the play becomes a different beast than it was at the beginning. The Plagiarists managed to surprise me alongside making me nostalgic for childhood sci-fi, crafting a wholly original story. I never knew what was about to happen, and what did happen never failed to plaster a huge grin across my face. Season Pass makes you laugh. It makes you save lives and destroy robots. Pure joy and satisfaction is what I left with and that is all I can ask for; however, I can also say that I died three times during the course of the show. That is some magnificent theater!

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

Season Pass continues through September 28th at The Frontier Storefront, 1106 W. Thorndale (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$20, and are available online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ThePlagiarists.org(Running time: 3 hours, includes 3 short breaks)

Alexandria Frenkel, Nick Freed, Sara Jean McCarthy, Ken Miller, Wes Needham, Jessica Saxvik and Charlesanne Rabensburg star in The Plagiarists' "Season Pass," directed by Mary Rose O'Connor and Paul Kastner. (photo credit: Joe Mazza)

Photos by Joe Mazza 


     

artists

cast

Alexandria Frenkel (Grat, Matthews, Ensemble), Nick Freed (Captain, Krkrblrk, Ensemble), Sara Jean McCarthy (Patton, Ambassador, Ensemble), Ken Miller (Welcomer, Sid, Ensemble), Wes Needham (Colonel, Blrk, Ensemble), Jessica Saxvik (Michaels, Sanders, Ensemble), Charlesanne Rabensburg (Penguin, Ell, Ensemble)

behind the scenes

Mary Rose O’Connor, Paul Kastner (co-directors), Melissa Schlesinger (set design, props design), Kit Ryan (stage manager), Emma Cullimore (costume design), James Snyder (puppet design and construction, crew chief), John Jacobsen (lighting design), Elissa Shortridge (lighting assistant, programmer), Joe Mazza (photos)

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Category: 2014 Reviews, Frontier Storefront, Jacob Harmon, New Work, Plagiarists, World Premier

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