Sunday, May 26, 2019

Actors' Gang Redux.. Violence!

The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer emerges after a long hiatus. 

In 1986.. Regan in the White House..  times were tough and somehow, we get the feeling that the themes of yesteryear are on us once again. Tim Robbins' and Adam Simon's brilliant take on the issues and politics of the eighties and the current sinking of the country into a morass of morassity seems current and through satire examines in such a way as to spark response. 

The Ivy Substation is a cavernous hall with exposed brick walls.  Spike Spangle (Tom Syzmanski), a farmer, lies in bed with his beautiful wife, Flora (Andrea Monte Warren), heavy with child.  The TV set illuminates the scene and as the national anthem plays, the TV set explodes and the future lies before us as Spike and Flora look up into the sky:  a shooting star.  Make a wish star. 

For those who may remember.. consider the San Francisco Mime Troupe, The Bread and Puppet Theatre and a nice dose of Commedia del Arte all mixed nicely with a strong polemic that we all should heed but probably won't. This is political theatre, make no mistake and though painted with a very broad brush, the issues ring true.  The Rich call the shots, the Military will do what the military will do (with beautiful choreography this gang of six "chiefs" in full dress uniforms and appropriate commedia masks prevail. ) 

Max Enormous (Will Thomas McFadden) appears, his blonde pompadour an homage to another mega billionaire? Just enough white face to make a point. In a brilliant introduction, he commands the stage as stock margins flicker: Buy buy buybuy  buy sell sell.BUY!  with the charging Bull of Wall Street projected on the walls.. Then..  exhausted.. he laments his lonely situation.  And, then with a burst of social fantasy, imagines success from golf to basketball to boxing.. Pow! He's ready now to put his R and D team on his supreme personal project: IMMORTALITY.. 

Our story progresses with terrific renditions of characters that scamper and fret and become the essence of a nightmare for Spike.   Director Bob Turton (who limns both Numb, the bank loan officer and Superman) keeps the ensemble rolling at a super sonic pace that puts Spike (and Superman!) into space... with the world in chaos  while mega Max continues his never ending quest for Immortality!
Turton's madcap though focused pace creates a frenzy that reflects, perhaps, the current issues of our times: the uncertainties and the overwhelming angst that modern folks live with day by day.  To summarize the plot is tough, but suffice it to say that this ensemble is a dedicated gang of actors and others who bring  mondo bizzaro to life.  
I've not seen such impressive ensemble work for a long time and the dedication of this cast to this play, now over thirty years old, but as relevant as it was in 1986, is worth the drive to Culver City!  This is beyond entertainment, though the work is entertaining.. the subtext and up shot of it all ends in the war that the 'Chiefs' have all promoted as the future of our country.. of the world...  hangs in an awkward balance. Our awkward state. These awkward times. A strong polemic.

The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer
MAY 2 – JUNE 22
Written by Tim Robbins and Adam Simon
Directed by Bob Turton
The Actors' Gang
The Ivy Substation
9070 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA, 90232 
Through June 22, 2019
Tickets and information:

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