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Sisters Ruby and Remy
Sisters Ruby (Paige Picard) and Remy (Chandler Parrott-Thomas) talk buck hunting. Photo by Katie Kelley.

Theater Review
Escanaba in Da Moonlight
Presented by Left Edge Theatre

'Terrific comic acting, and a total escape from the mundane'

Nov 27, 2019
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

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An ensemble of excellent actresses are having the time of their life on stage, landing all the laughs in the wild and wacky comedy from actor-turned-playwright Jeff Daniels, running through December 15 at Left Edge Theatre.  It’s raucous, a little raunchy, and filled with nonstop laugh-out-loud moments, including one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed onstage. 

Mom Alberta Soady (Sandra Ish) tells it like it is. Photo by Katie Kelley.Alberta Soady (Sandra Ish) provides opening narrative filling us in on the character of U.P. (Upper Peninsula), Michigan— and the people known as Yoopers who inhabit the region alongside Native Americans. They have a particular reputation for eccentricity, and their own dialect, and definite opinions of all the “Flat-landers” who know nothing about the abundant forests and fauna. And, hunting. 

The Jimmer (Kimberley Kalember) shares details of an incident. With Chandler Parrott-Thomas as Remy. Photo by Katie Kelley.The tradition of hunting goes back many generations for the Soady clan, and stories of epic hunting adventures are recorded in a small journal kept in the Soady’s cabin located deep in the woods of Escanaba forest, especially noting when someone bags their first buck. Daughter Ruby Soady (Paige Picard) arrives as Alberta tells us that Ruby is the only one of the family who has yet to get her buck, and, at her age, that’s not good. Tomorrow’s opening day of deer-hunting season, and Ruby is determined to make this her “buck” season.

They’re joined by sister Remy (Chandler Parrott-Thomas), a determined hunter who can’t wait to get on the ridge and bag another buck or two. Her success generates competition with Ruby, in typical friendly/savage sibling rivalry. 

Everyone makes nice to Ranger Tanya. L-R: Kimberley Kalember, Chandler Parrott-Thomas, Rosie Frater, Sandra Ish, Paige Picard. Photo by Katie Kelley.

To say any more about the plot is spoiler territory, and that would be criminal with this play, filled with humorous twists and surprises galore. Comical missteps follow one after another: Ruby has brought strange provisions rather than the traditional “pasties,” space aliens may be real, and Remy’s having visions of a huge buck. The Jimmer (Kimberly Kalember), a local woman given to strange speech, forest ranger Tanya (Rosie Frater), and Ruby’s wife Wolf Moon Dance (Anabel Pimentel) round out the cast of eccentric characters and add to the hilarity. They’re all lovable and a little nutty, and therein lies the gift of the script. There are priceless moments of zany comic action, and a resolution that utterly fits the circumstances. That "funniest scene” I mentioned simply can’t be described— you just have to see it for yourself. 

Courting the big buck. L-R: Sandra Ish, Chandler Parrott-Thomas, Paige Picard, Kimberley Kalember. Photo by Katie Kelley.An outstanding cast makes this loony script work and worth seeing— Picard, Ish, and Parrott-Thomas possess wonderful comic skills, and the three have chemistry together for miles. When they’re joined by Kalember, the comic ante doubles and the action goes even wackier. Frater doesn’t have as much to do but has the requisite tone to keep the comedy percolating. Pimentel is a lovely, ephemeral breath of fresh air in all the chaos.

Thanks to director  Argo Thompson  for his atmospheric set and for brilliant casting and inspired staging. April George  does a fantastic job with lighting, including aliens, and Joe Winkler  supplies the enhancing sound.  Sandra Ish  also does costume design, and clearly enjoys bringing these characters to life. Kat Motley  deserves kudos for the mountain of strange props.

Holiday play? Maybe your holiday plan includes a riotous comedy with nonstop laughs, terrific comic acting, and a total escape from the mundane. Mine does now —my holidays just got a whole lot better for seeing this one.

 

Escanaba in Da Moonlight

By Jeff Daniels, Presented by Left Edge Theatre through Dec. 15, 2019

Thu/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Tickets: $15-42; Thursday discount

 

Left Edge Theatre

Studio Theatre, Luther Burbank CFA

50 Mark West Springs Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

(707) 546-3600

http://www.leftedgetheatre.com

 

Photos by Katie Kelley

 

 

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