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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 3:50 pm | Fair 55º


Review: Ratatat Theater Group Is Coming Up ‘Roses’

Brilliant actors bring out the best in Casey Caldwell's innovative one-act play

Roses, the gloriously innovative piece of theater that ran the last two weekends in the Fishbon Theater, is Ratatat Theater Group’s first stand-alone production. Directed by Casey Caldwell, the work was presented in an earlier incarnation at the Lit Moon Theater Festival last fall. Taking material from the writings of Richard Foreman and Gertrude Stein, as well as from the cast’s own lives, Caldwell’s collaboratively developed play is described as “about finding a clear signal in the noise of modern life.”

On a no-frills stage, four actors in white button-down shirts and black trousers — two men, two women — weaved an alternately surreal and surprisingly real-life universe with no more than four chairs, a card table and several large cardboard boxes.

A dialogue between Nolan Hamlin and Jessica Drake about whether the table was “a real table” had a Lewis Carroll-esque flavor, and Jamie Birkett and Marie Ponce carried on an earnest conversation regarding where they should take a walk while wearing two of the boxes.

Scenarios of esoteric speech and idiosyncratic mannerisms alternated with interludes where the actors introduced themselves, speaking candidly about their lives and families. This disarming blend of the far-out and the down-to-earth created a rich texture.

At several points during the show, the actors created monologue collages. By layering their voices over one another, matter-of-factly describing the actions we all perform throughout the day, they approximated the hubbub of daily life. Early on, they also formed a collage of pantomime, acting out these mundane tasks. The effect was soothing, with bursts of humor. By the way, well-done pantomime of everyday activities proves more interesting than actually watching people brush their teeth or butter a piece of toast.

And the final scene, when the rose appeared, was poignant and perfect.

The actors did a beautiful job of balancing the bizarre with the commonplace in this one-act play, which passed all too quickly.

Kudos to all involved for an entirely fresh and unique work of theater, which, while sounding serious at times, never took itself too seriously.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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