Mad Dog Theatre Company has a winning ticket with its latest endeavor, "The Thrill of the Chase". Playwright Philip Gawthorne masterfully spins a comedic tale that sneaks up on the audience with its dark twists and turns, discovering along the way the challenges of being a modern 20-something male. Charlie (Kevin O'Callaghan) has a paralyzing and hypnotic hold over his loyal best friend Nicky (the charismatic Ryan Barrentine) -- as well as the audience, thanks to O'Callaghan's charmingly evil portrayal. When Nicky decides to marry his lackluster girlfriend Izzy (sweetly played by Nicole Samsel), Charlie takes it upon himself as a "civic duty" to save his friend from a life of boring domesticity, enlisting the help of the Faith (Jenna D'Angelo, who flourishes as both sexy and quirky while retaining her mystery -- especially in one memorable scene seated with Nicky on a pool table.). The story is ultimately focused on Nicky's choice to be civilized, resisting Charlie's more animalistic, self-serving way of life. Barrentine's ability to transform as Nicky becomes mentally mangled throughout the course of the play is truly remarkable. This exquisite exploration of the duality of human nature is sculpted handsomely under the direction of Joel Waage. The intimate setting reels you in, placing the audience amidst the action -- occasionally uncomfortably, when the action turns from its origins in laughter to its more disturbing elements. Just as the characters play games with each other, the show plays games with the audience. Gawthorne cleverly employs misdirection, leading us to believe we are ahead of the story and lulling us with comedy, when in fact we are about to be thrown for a loop. With skills in the vein of such playwrights as Neil LaBute and David Mamet, Mr. Gawthorne is certainly a writer to watch. I highly recommend this sensational new play. I left feeling haunted by it. Days later, I can't get this piece out of my head. A truly great night of theatre.
This is a gritty play that falls short in seeking to explore the more depraved underbelly of what passes for masculinity and sexual politics. Its conceit is not an original one and it is not developed in any new, unusual or creative manner. Moreover, the playwright manages to spend two and a half hours telling a story that might easily have been told in an hour and a half. Admittedly, there are twists and turns to the plot but they are mostly anticipated and itâs doubtful that youâll find them very surprising. The play is well acted by all four principals but nonetheless, because of the lines they have been given, they all come across more as caricatures than fully fleshed out individuals. I have posted an expanded review of this play and reviews of several other Broadway, off Broadway and off off Broadway plays on my blog www.aseatontheaisle.blogspot.com.