Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Monster In The Hall" from City Theatre

"Monster In The Hall" follows Duck, a sixteen-year-old girl Scottish girl on what could be the most stressful day of her young and stress-filled life. The house is a mess, her Hell's Angels retiree father has finally been struck blind by his Multiple Sclerosis, her could-be-gay/would-be-boyfriend drops by for a proposition and her Mom is still dead, leaving Duck to juggle it all on her own - all with the woman from Social Services planning to stop by for lunch. There's also a small amount of Socialism.

"Monster In The Hall" by City Theatre could be one of the best shows you see this season. Best described as a "play with music" rather than a full-out musical, half the play is sung in rock/punk style by the energetic cast who dance and sing with all the enthusiam of teens alone in their bedrooms. The energy and comic skill of the cast keeps the high-energy show of ever-growing stakes constantly moving. They sing. They dance. They have motorcycle chase scenes.

Melinda Helfrich as Duck is as endearing as she is awkward - which is what the character demands. Her Duck is a girl whose strength is abundantly clear to the audience, but who can't see it in herself. Helfrich makes what could be a tragic, put-on young woman into a heroine who has our support by never dreaming to ask for it.

Sheila McKenna as ALL the other female roles is domineering, then endearing, then a Norweigian punk star, all while being hilariously funny. The same can said for Matt Dengler as Lawrence (and as various Game Show Hosts) and David Whelan as her motorcycle-minded father, Duke. With a cast of four, everyone is consistently onstage signing, dancing, pantomiming all in a joyous mix that tries to mask the piss-stained, weed-filled home that Duck and Duke have cobbled together. All this is accomplished not with brazen sarcasm, but real tenderness that makes life, no matter how hard, tolerable.

The set is a series of child-decorated doors and cupboards that fill the stage, opening and closing without rhyme or reason. The lighting and video elements are brilliantly done, with the motorcyle crash that took Duck's mother popping up, much like tragic events keep recycling through our own mind. A fantastic lighting and sound scheme keeps the energy of the play going in perfect sync with the performances.

While the play could be called hodge-podge, it's structure makes sense. "Monster In The Hall" is all about coping. Music helps you cope, so there's music in the play. Fantasies help you cope, so the play is filled with them too. So do video games, game shows, stories about the past, and the production manages to mesh all these things together in a fantastical but honest spectacle of theatre. "Monster In The Hall" should not be missed.

Tickets for City Theatre's "Monster In The Hall" can be purchased here:

- The Eponymous Theatre Critic does not believe the slanderous rumor that Greenland in filled with ice while Iceland is green; neither should you. Such an irony could not be cooked up by a people as barbaric as the Vikings.

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