by Julie Congress · August 23, 2015
Loose Canon, a clever new play by Brian Reno and Gabriel Vega Weissman, explores the characters, language and worldview of six iconic playwrights by thrusting their style onto modern, mundane circumstances. How would Sophocles view the tragedy that is a toddler’s birthday party? Or Molière rhyme his way through satirizing an Ikea excursion? Loose Canon bridges the knowledge of a theatre history class with the raucous fun of sketch comedy.
The El Taqueria, a Chekhovian look at three sisters working in a bankrupt Taco Bell, provided me with the best appreciation for the thoroughness of research and thought in the piece. Reno and Weissman do a remarkable job of capturing Chekhov’s entire repertoire and aesthetic in the scene - we’ve got the Orchard-like restaurant, a sister dressed in black, long-winded monologues from their old uncle the chef, nostalgia for papa, lack of activity while longing for change, modernity overtaking the old way of life, humor in tragedy, etc. Loose Canon is created out of reverence for these pivotal playwrights – we’re laughing, but it’s not satire, it’s deference. And there’s something delightfully refreshing and much-needed about that – we should have heroes.
Director Logan Reed steers the show along at a steady clip, artistically using Ravi Rakkulchon’s adaptable set and sound designer Zack McKenna’s peppy music to flow from scene to scene, playwright to playwright. A talented ensemble of just six actors bring the pieces to life, easily donning new characters and handling varied types of language, poetry and prose. Becky Baumwoll gives a hysterical mime performance in The Full, Upright and Locked Position, stuck in her garbage can seat on a Beckettian airplane. Grant Chamberlin and Todd Rizley handle the music of Mamet-inspired dialogue in a way so natural you could cast them in Glengarry Glen Ross tomorrow. And Cynthia Nesbit, Tamara Sevunts and Daniel Tepper, joined by the rest of the ensemble, summon the unbearable burden of childhood in the Sophoclian The Elmae.
Literate without being pretentious, funny without being dumb, Loose Canon, is a delightfully fun time. The modern emphasis of consumerism and commercialism playfully imposed on each of the playwrights is certainly meant as a humorous wake up call. What does a modern Shakespeare write about, if we are only interested in the things we can buy online at Amazon?