Monday, June 25, 2012

The Bad and the Better

Jordan Tisdale, William Apps
Photo: Monica Simoes
The Amoralists love to yell, and they do it well. In their shows, usually written by the smart and wry Derek Ahonen, people live operatically, full of big emotions, deep cravings, and endless questions about their place in the universe. In his sprawling noir, The Bad and the Better, Ahonen gives us a world  in which desire is sudden and intense, you can't tell the bad guys from the better, and no one lives at less than 100 miles an hour.

Lang (the always-wonderful William Apps) is a cop stuck at a desk job, maybe a hero, maybe not. Venus (David Nash) is a playwright doing research on revolutionaries. Sweet anarchist Faye (the extraordinary Anna Stromberg) falls in love with Venus, but the other anarchists aren't sure they trust him. Real estate developer Zorn (Clyde Baldo) basically owns politician Eugene Moretti (the perfectly silly David Lanson). Julio (Jordan Tisdale) is a young police officer. Lenny (Penny Bittone) is an older cop trying to balance love and integrity. Matilda (the delightful Cassandra Paras) is a bartender at a cop bar. Miss Hollis (Sarah Lemp) is a secretary in love with her boss.

What do these characters all have to do with one another? Finding out is a great deal of the fun in The Bad and the Better. 

Director Daniel Aukin keeps The Bad and the Better moving like the proverbial well-oiled machine. New scenes begin almost before the previous scenes end. People flow on and off stage quickly and often. The production is big and energetic and very funny. 

The design aspects of the show are all top-notch. Kudos to set designer Alfred Schatz, costume designer Moria Clinton, lighting designer Natalie Robin, sound designer Phil Carluzzo, and fight choreographer Lisa Kopitsky.

The show's faults are few. A couple of actors are hard to understand. Some lose their characters under their bluster (but most don't, which is impressive in light of the operatic theatricality of the piece). Sometimes it's hard to follow the plot (though that seems to be a tradition in noirs going back to The Big Sleep). The play's ending pushes the moral a bit much. But overall, this show is a highly successful treat.

(second row; press ticket)

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