A "Thrill" Indeed!
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.
The Thrill of the Chase on Friday, Feb 24th, 2012