Lingerie Serves as Backdrop for Confusing But Engaging Large Animal Games
Photo by Lynn Lane Brittny Bush, Lyndsay Sweeney, Bobby Haworth, Crystal O'Brien and Autumn Clack in Large Animal Games from Mildred's Umbrella.
An upscale lingerie shop serves as a focal point in Steve Yockey's comedic play about -- well, finding out what it's about is part of the fun, so let's just say it chronicles the needs, aspirations and foibles of semi-affluent would-be sophisticates in their thirties, give or take a few years.
The excellent set by John Dunn is an elegant shop with towering shadow-box cabinets that contain lingerie, showcased as though each was a work of art. An open arch leads to unseen dressing rooms, and spanning the arch and on both sides are tall, upholstered walls in a fuchsia color that can shift to blood red with light changes. The proprietor, Jimmy, is portrayed by Ron Jones, looking and sounding pedantic and prissy as the part requires, with an "I'm smarter than you are" air. Jones is very good at this and exudes an other-worldly smugness, perhaps because he knows what the play is about. He has the advantage there.
The relatively brief full-length play is lighthearted and droll, and vaguely interesting, a bit like reading a book with some of the pages missing, but with vivid characters. There is not really much humor, but there are a few amusing theatrical surprises -- two of them involving men not fully dressed. Crystal O'Brien plays Alicia, engaged to Stan (Bobby Haworth), and she is etched as an airhead shopaholic by Yockey. Stan looks and acts like the boy-next-door, except with more money, but an attempt to increase intimacy by sharing a secret with Alicia backfires, though this is remedied by Jimmy -- lingerie shop, remember -- who dispenses some wisdom. It might be that Jimmy is God, or something like that, I pondered, still searching, searching, searching...
Lyndsay Sweeney portrays Rose, who has been to a bullfight in Spain where they actually (gasp) kill the bull, and she's returned home with Miguel, a young Spaniard who seems to speak no English, to which Rose exclaims, "Isn't that amazing?!" I found this puzzling, as not-speaking-English could have been "disappointing", or an "advantage," or any number of things, but I don't think "amazing" is one of them. Sweeney sells the line as though it were a true and valuable insight -- perhaps I should ask Jimmy what it means.
Miguel is played by Kalid Puentes, and if there is a better-looking youth in Houston, he hasn't crossed my path. Given the language barrier, his work is largely pantomime, and Puentes is very effective in creating a sense of smoldering sexuality, so it is no surprise that he catches the eye of Rose's best friend, Nicole, portrayed by Autumn Clack. Rose's roommate is Valerie, portrayed by Brittny Bush, who is vacationing in Africa not to find roots but just for a holiday. Something does happen in Africa, which has a deep effect on Valerie, though its significance seemed well over the head of mortals like me. The effort was directed by Matt Huff, and he did well in bringing this soufflé to life, as has Mildred's Umbrella in continuing to bring the unusual to Houston stages.
Mildred's Umbrella mounts a handsome production of a work that is more of a lark than a play, but which offers up some surprises and some vivid characters, and keeps you on your toes puzzling it out.
Large Animal Games continues through July 14, Studio 101@Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring St. For ticketing or information, call 832-463-0409 or contact www.mildredsumbrella.com.