When you walk out of the theater thinking, “What the heck was that?” it’s not always a good thing. But sometimes it is. And as my friend and I drove home and chatted about the show, the script, the acting, the tech . . . we came to the conclusion that PLUTO is a very good play.
I was fortunate enough to attend a preview event last week in which we were given a mostly spoiler free look at this provocative new work. This was quite helpful as it allowed me to not think so much about the elements of the show and stay lost in the story unfolding on stage. I did find that there were a couple moments where I drifted into other thoughts, but that nearly always happens to me during more abstract works of art like this show.
The KNOW Theatre’s production is part of a “rolling world premiere” meaning that our city’s resident alternative theatre is one of four in the country debuting this show this season. It’s the story of Bailey Miller and his mother, Elizabeth on a day that’s “just like any other day” except for the talking three headed dog and the Cherry Blossom tree growing upside down in the kitchen. Oh, and the refrigerator that shakes and growls and the radio that seems to be talking directly to the widowed Mrs. Miller. But other wise, things are quite normal.
An ominous sense of wonder builds as the script slowly reveals what exactly is happening at 9:30am on this “normal” day. Bailey, an average kid with below average self-esteem, is played with fierce courage by newcomer Wesley Carman. Carman, a junior at NKU, really shines especially in the quieter scenes with equity actress Annie Fitzpatrick. I can’t wait to see what he does next; he’s got a bright future in drama. Fitzpatrick really warmed up as the show climaxed and I believed the emotion she was showing. Torie Wiggins, one of my favorite local equity actresses, is razor sharp as Cerberus, the three-headed dog, but I do wish she had more to say and do. (Also I found the bizarre dance in the middle of the show unnecessary and too avant-garde for my personal taste.) Equity member, Ken Early, and another NKU student, Lauren Hayes, round out this cast. I can only imagine as the show continues, Ms. Hayes will calm down just a touch and not rush so many of her lines and Early will settle into a more comfortable rhythm with his own important dialogue.
The real star of this show however is the tech. Technical director Nick Kohelke has his hands full with the special effects required to make this show work – and yet, all of them worked and one of them blew my mind (but I don’t want to give it away). Let’s just say the shocking nature of this particular effect was as good as any I’ve seen done in every action film ever made. Andrew Hungerford’s set design established the necessary realism so that the fanciful, mythological themes could be explored yet stay grounded in a time and place the audience can relate to. I’m not sure who’s responsible for the makeup, but both costume designer Noelle Wedig and stage manager/propsmistress Kristin Ruthmeyer deserve recognition for their contribution to this creatively challenging show.
The audience is what makes or breaks you on the business side of theatre. The folks behind me oohed at the end, sighing heavily, but in a way that said, “Wow.” And my friend said, “Heavy” as we walked out the door. It’s not a show for the faint of heart nor is it a mainstream melodrama. It’s weird, it’s thought provoking, and it’s very very good.
I walked out of the theater not knowing what to think. I enjoy that. If you do too, then you need to see PLUTO.
PLUTO is a one-act 90 minute play and it runs through February 22nd at the KNOW Theatre in Over-the-Rhine. Tickets and more information are available here. I find it easiest to park in the very secure garage across the street. . . just be sure to take your ticket with you so you can get back in.