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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Revolutionary Tale

Theater Review

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  One of two Insurgent Theatre shows to open at the Alchemist Theatre this past weekend, Rex Winsome’s Paint the Town plays out like some grim fairy tale of modern revolution. Winsome plays a radical known only as Big Red who lives in a converted space in a disused section of an urban subway system with co-revolutionary Nadia Mensche (played by Kate Pleuss). Nadia’s mother was a radical in Europe prior to settling down in the U.S., and Red sees potential in her to be very influential as well. Nadia is tied to the world through her family, present onstage in the form of her half-brother, Arthur (played by Jason Hames).

  Hames, Pleuss and Winsome narrate much of the story out of character with the kind of energy that speaks to a great enthusiasm for the story they’re telling. There’s a pleasantly whimsical sense of fun about the way they deliver the story, which goes a long way toward making the heavier dramatic elements of revolution feel less overwhelming.

  As a playwright, Winsome has veered far enough away from the intellectual theory of social revolution to keep the story comfortably character-driven. As an actor he does a pretty good job of delivering the casual social elements of his own script. The early parts of the story come across as an enjoyably bizarre twist on the traditional domestic sitcom. Red sits there at his desk working on a bomb or some such and there’s Nadia coming through the door with a bag full of groceries she’s lifted off some stranger.

  The dialogue between Red and Nadia is written accessibly enough to sound as though it wouldn’t be entirely out of place accompanied by a laugh track, but lofty enough to be casually engaging to anyone familiar with abstract philosophy. Theirintellectual intimacy is cleverly represented in debates that quickly evolve into verbal chess matches, only audible in the form of a series of philosophers’ names. Portraying that kind of intimacy onstage could be disastrously challenging, but Winsome and Pleuss have more than enough of a rapport to make it work. In the role of Nadia’s half brother, Hames adds just enough drama to create the perfect kind of outside friction necessary to drive the plot.

Paint the Town runs through July 27 at the Alchemist Theatre.