Rogue Productions brings us a bizarre play by Leah Nanako Winkler that takes us to the Hamptons. That's where you meet Mary (a stand-out Mai Lee), who is a blonde ditz with perhaps profound psychological issues. For example, when she is stressed or upset, she pretends to be a bird. Sometimes, she even caws.
Mary’s famous actor stepfather has died, leaving her spoiled mother, Blythe (Kaci M. Fannin), alone and about to move out of their estate dubbed Two Mile Hollow. The house itself is set perfection, highlighting the wealth of the family in a relatively small space. Designer Afsaneh Aayani has composed a modern kitchen, a lovely dining room, and a back hall replete with books and cardboard boxes, juxtaposing the supposed stability of those wealthy enough to live in the Hamptons with the instability of transition as the house has already sold.
Key word: “instability.” There is a lot of that at Two Mile Hollow.
Mary is scarred by her haughty mother’s criticism and devastating looks that pretty much send her over the edge. She's also kind of in love with her famous actor brother, Christopher, played by Jovan Jackson, and it is laugh-out-loud funny when she makes awkward passes at him. While Christopher is vain, her other brother Joshua (Abe Zapata) is a hot mess: alcoholic, with no goals, and no real professional trajectory.
To add to this crazy cocktail, Christopher brings his “personal assistant,” Charlotte (Samantha Jaramillo), with him. She has spent about four years chasing her own media dreams, and she wants him to help her with her career. And she is sleeping with him, much to the chagrin of Mary, who thinks Charlotte is too low on the social totem pole to be worthy of her son's movie-star good looks and success. I know: It sounds like a circus, and it kind of is, but don’t worry. Everything gels together on stage, and it is fast-paced and never lags, which is kind of mandatory these days for theatrical comedy. If you are looking for subtlety, this is not the place.
Directed by Lisa Villegas (a fine actress in her own right), Two Mile Hollow follows a labyrinthine plot with a lot of comic flair, even when the comedy is more bizarre or kind of shocking than outright funny. As Steve Martin famously said, “Comedy is not pretty,” and with this production, it is a little unclear to me what this play is. Is it a farce? Sometimes. Straight comedy. Well, sure. Satirical? At times. But maybe that is the goal of Winkler’s play, to juggle all those things in one show. Charlotte, Christopher’s assistant, often reveals her inner thoughts by talking directly to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, but no one else really does this, so I am not sure of the purpose of her doing that solo. But maybe this is kind of the hybrid theater that is going to become the norm. It will be interesting to see.
Rogue Productions is a relatively new theater company in Houston that states its mission is “to create accessible theatrical experiences that represent the diverse populations of our city,” which they absolutely accomplish in this show. And they do it in a surprising way, making all the characters portrayed by someone of a different race or ethnicity. I am not sure if this is super humorous, but I like that it makes the point that an actor can play any role, because that is acting, so let freedom ring, and let the director cast anyone he or she wants.
Their other mission is “to tell stories to which all Houstonians can relate.” Hmmm. I have never lived in the Hamptons, or been a famous actor’s “assistant,” but the play is certainly accessible. You don’t have to “relate” to these characters in order to understand what is going on, and since the play is fueled, in a way, by stereotypes, I think the comedy depends a lot on just enjoying the zaniness of the show, and that is just fine.
One more thing: Don’t wig out, but the wigs (Logan Keslar) are a sight to behold. Once you see this show, that is one of the things that I doubt you’ll forget.
Thru Feb. 9. Tickets from $30. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533. More info and tickets at matchouston.org.