By Philip Barry; Directed by Jacob Titus
Produced by Hunger & Thirst Theatre Collective
Off Off Broadway, Revival
Runs through 2.15.15
Theaterlab, 357 West 36th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 2.1.15
Jordan Kaplan and Larry Phillips in The Animal Kingdom. Photo by David Anderson.
BOTTOM LINE: A hilarious revival for the ages in which a man has to choose between artistry and riches, and then two women.
Lifestyle is a funny thing. Some people live for the moment, cherishing laughter with friends, even if they're sitting on pillows thrown onto a wooden floor. Others prefer small talk in the country while ringing for a butler. Granted, some of us do not get to choose which life we live. Tom (Jordan Kaplan) does. He was born into wealth regardless of whether or not he accepts the money offered to him by his bumbling father Rufus Collier (James Luse). So now Tom gets to decide: posh country life or artsy town life?
To help Tom with his decision is his love for two different women. The artist in the city is a long time lover and friend of his, but she made her decision that they were to remain only friends very clear...or did she? Now that she is returning home for the first time in months it is hard to identify what she is thinking. Despite this up-in-the-air relationship with Daisy Sage (Patricia Lynn), Tom is newly engaged to the refined Cecelia Henry (Kelsy Didion). He finds himself in quite the predicament as he is simply trying to follow his heart. What does his heart want? The blonde or the brunette?
Philip Barry's The Animal Kingdom played on Broadway in 1932 and a movie version came out that same year. The script presents a wonderful backbone to a show, but the writing alone cannot be relied upon to create a successful execution. The vim and vigor need to be injected, and that is just what director Jacob Titus has accomplished. From casting, staging, and beyond, I found the choices hitting the nail on the head.
I loved the performances all around, but Didion is a stand out. Remember that name. I know I will be keeping watch on her career. She gives the ever-so talented and beautiful Myrna Loy -- who played Cecelia in the movie -- a run for her money. For a good portion of the show I was rooting for her character, even though I realized she might not actually be that nice of a girl. The subtleties with which Didion plays the subtext are brilliant. I can rant about her intonation, delivery, attitude, expressions, intentions, and non verbal cues all day long, but it still will not do the performance I saw from her justice.
The intimate theatre is adequate, but I would love to see this same production in a bigger space. Not only would it allow more seats for a larger audience, but this talented and well-trained group of artists deserve to stretch out and see all that they are capable of. The theatre also has a column in the middle, causing some seats to be partial-view. It is with confidence that I say these actors could communicate their subject matter and intentions anywhere. They keep their energy up, have good material, and hit the humor home. There are plenty of jokes to go around and even if some of the dishes pass you by, the heaping portions will come around again. I ate my fill and still want another helping.
(The Animal Kingdom plays at Theaterlab Inc., 357 West 36th Street, Third Floor, through February 15, 2015. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM; and Sundays at 7PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at hungerandthirsttheatre.com.)