Aug 5, 2017
by Harry Duke, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and American Theatre Critics Association
According to IMDB, the budget for 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an estimated $245,000,000.00. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here in saying the budget for the Redwood Theatre Company’s production of Brittany Law’s original musical parody The Farce Awakens was about 1/245,000,000th of that. Cardboard sets, Super Soakers for ray guns, and a droid costume consisting of an oversized t-shirt and bike helmet equal a show with production values that would make Edward D. Wood, Jr. blush.
And yet there’s something charming about making due with the resources at hand, so playwright/composer/assistant director/dance choreographer/costume, set & prop designer Law joined with RTC’s Artistic Director/stage director/dance & fight choreographer Kot Takahashi to bring her creation to life on the quaint and comfortable Redwood Theatre Company stage in the heart of an industrial park in Healdsburg.
Law’s script follows the screen story of the search for the long-lost Luke Skywalker while battling the villainous ‘First Order’ but manages to chop the film’s 126 minutes down to about 75 while adding 14 songs to the mix. All your main characters are there – Rey (Ms. Law), Poe Dameron (Mr. Takahashi), Finn (Isiah Carter), Kylo Ren (Ezra Hernandez), BB8 (Adriano Brown), Teedo (Griffin Tatum) as well as Han (Brett Mollard), Chewie (Alex Jimenez), Luke (Alex Sterling) and Leia (Shawna Jackson). Most of the cast fill in for various other roles from General Hux to a Rockettes-like kick line of dancing stormtroopers. The ensemble also has two members, Mathew Gravel and Jasmine Capriotti, from the Alchemia Arts program which supports adults with developmental disabilities through artistic expression. They all seem to be having a blast and their affection for the material is evident.
I don’t know how they are able to sing with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, but they do and often quite well. Ms. Law and Mr. Hernandez are trained singers and did best with Ms. Law’s often clever compositions. With titles like “New Best Friend”, “Darth Inside of Me”, and “Totally Brand-New Cantina”, the challenge was often not just to sing, but to do it with a straight face. The cast managed to do that – mostly.
It helps to know the canon of Star Wars, as there are plenty of references and in-jokes that mighty fly over the heads of the unaware. No matter, as there are plenty of other things at which to laugh. Comedic props to Adriano Brown for managing to be more than a sight gag with his BB8. Kot Takahashi’s overplaying (appropriately) as Poe is balanced out by Isiah Carter’s underplaying as Finn. Together, you might say they’re ham and wry. Brett Mollard and Alex Jimenez’s Han and Chewie played like the space equivalent of Laurel and Hardy (though I don’t expect any of their generation to get that reference.)
Look, we’re not talking Shakespeare or Arthur Miller or even Ken Ludwig here. What we have is a group of talented young performers having fun with something that’s a pop cultural reference point for them. I may not be a member of the cult of Star Wars, but I find this company’s energy and enthusiasm for what they are doing infectious. I found myself smiling frequently at the silliness happening on-stage. The all-ages audience was certainly with them. They were there to have a good time.
They got it.
The Farce Awakens
presented by the Redwood Theatre Company
through August 13 - Fri & Sat @ 7:30pm, Sun @ 2pm
* Admission is free but space is limited. Donations are appreciated. *
Photos by RTC
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