Giants Have Us In Their Books stitches together six children’s plays and presents them for an adult audience. Each of the six have an underlying theme or symbol that is either obvious initially, or buried beneath layers of dramatic emission. These six plays — Flowers, Tape, A Tiger in Central Park, Gas, The Crooked Cross and The Winged Man — all seem to desperately want to teach the audience a lesson.
The play markets itself as a show for adults, featuring acts of sex, violence (sexual violence at one point), nudity, and crude language. While some of these marks are effective in telling the story, I felt the language was not warranted at points. Whether it is credited to the acting or just flawed writing, the language seemed to be included for the sake of going there.
Gas is the standout play in this collection. Set in February of 1991, actor Mott Abrams’s Cheo tackles the subject of war and how it has changed him, his brother who’s fighting, and his mother. What starts off as a simple stop for gas unfolds into a hard-pressed tale about love, hate, anger and violence. Some laughs are had, but as the monologue progresses, ripping back the layers, Cheo’s broken soul begins to surface. The fittingly titled Gas, was the one that stuck with me after leaving the studio.
Thorin Keteleson also brings his all to front. In Tape, Keteleson is a spiffy servant who is simply trying his best to do his job. He is able to get the audience to genuinely laugh. When we see him in the second act in The Crooked Cross play, he is able to show a completely different character that we (I hope) hate. Keteleson plays a Jew killing Nazi who becomes sadistically infatuated with Melanie Liebetrau’s character, who too does great work throughout the play.
Performances from the casts were fragmented, suspending the play in this hit or miss territory. Some actors and actress shined in some roles and were dull in others. In A Tiger in Central Park Andy Montano gave a comedically frightening performance as the tiger killing New York City’s sex drive. Unfortunately however, when he shows up in The Crooked Cross as a rebellious boyfriend opposite Liebetrau, his performance is rather transparent.
A similar problem is had with Courtney Howe in A Tiger in Central Park. She was able to steal the show as Yvette, a smoking jogger who hates the hobby (and a presumed Nicki Minaj fan), but when Howe stars in the final act as Daysi, a girl who is “touched” by an angel, the magic is lost. This is not at the fault of the performers’ ability to act, but the plays they are featured in. The show limits what they can do based on the material.
Giants Have Us In Their Books is a mixed bag. A little bit of good, a little bit of bad is what makes it what it is. No doubt there are things that were wildly creative. Actors were used as props, giving inanimate objects bursts of short-lived life. Sounds were also used effectively akin to the lighting which does its job in matching the mood. The play as a whole is an intimate experience, an experience that at base level made me look at what I could do with the lessons taught.
Photo Credit: Lisa Fadden
Upcoming Peck School of the Arts Events:
Film Department Senior Screenings: December 13, 2014, UWM Union Theatre
Musical Theatre Capstone: Anna Pfefferkorn: January 31, 2015, Recital Hall (MUS 175)
She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen: February 12, 2015 – February 15, 2015, Kenilworth Square East