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Review – ‘Honky’ at Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa by Alexa Chipman

Clashing perspectives jostle for attention in a thought-provoking examination of racism in the cold-blooded realm of marketing. Opening with an advertisement for Skymax shoes that turns violent, the hypothetical discussion of demographics becomes a genuine struggle between employees of the company.

Davis Tallison is blissfully unaware of the disturbing comments he makes toward minorities, basking in a belief that statistics are more important than the people represented by them. Earnest designer Thomas Hodge is horrified at the situation he is forced to endure, lashing out at the system, while struggling to find fulfillment. Nervous writer Peter Trammel is obsessed with not appearing to be racist, burdened by guilt he should not be carrying, while seeing a therapist, Emilia Hodge, who worries that she has lost touch with her heritage.

“Words are not islands” playwright Greg Kalleres emphasizes. When ripped out of context, any statement is suspect and can be twisted to fit the speaker’s agenda. Through a series of true to life vignettes, Kalleres nimbly demonstrates how prejudice and assumptions shape relationships and how language is understood.

In an emotionally charged therapy session, Peter (Mark Bradbury) physically backs Emilia (Liz Rogers-Beckley) into a corner, insisting he is a good sort of person, while demonstrating the opposite with his actions. She regains her position of power, reversing the visual image, leaving him slumped in a chair, unable to escape. The give and take is handled with care by director Argo Thompson, who collaborated with Jared Wright on haunting projections of urban environments and flickering lights in underground stations.

Davis (Mike Pavone) trades on personal pain as an excuse for racist behavior, with a grating, authentic portrayal of a man who persuades himself that casual comments do no harm to the recipient. Poignant humor in the role of Thomas is brought out in a masterful performance by Trey G. Riley, whose complex layers of compassion, biting sarcasm, loathing and a yearning to be loved are revealed through his interactions. Lydia Revelos as Andie Chastain gives the impression of a flirty, easily distracted social butterfly whose appalling remarks are interspersed with a flow of nonsensical commentary, oblivious to her surroundings.

‘Honky’ is riveting, with uncomfortable humor and an absurd plot, driven by characterization and provocative themes. Left Edge Theatre has brought a unique, stimulating production to the North Bay, with themes that are worth discussing.


Presented by Left Edge Theatre through July 1, 2018 Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Left Edge Studio Theatre at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 (707) 546-3600

Photos from Argo Thompson

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