DRAGON PLAY presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati through Feb. 18. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
For the first time this season, Know stumbles a bit with their current offering, DRAGON PLAY. But for me the problem lies in the script, not in the production quality itself. When I personally struggle to understand the logic of the world the playwright has created, it pulls me out of the moment. Part of the disconnect may be the image the word “dragon” creates in my mind’s eye. This may have skewed my entire interpretation of the show. Even so, there were other inconsistencies within the story itself that I found distracting.
In the tale of Dragon Girl (Kearston Hawkins-Johnson) and Boy (Josh Reiter), the love affair never resolved itself for me. I very much enjoyed the physicality that Kearston brought to the role and found her mesmerizing to watch. For Reiter, I would like to have seen more maturity in his performance as his character aged. There were also times I felt he pushed the emotion a bit too hard so that it didn’t ring true. Also while I understood Boy’s motivation for agreeing to the “deal,” it wasn’t clear to me what Dragon Girl gained from the bargain.
The other storyline was smartly cast with Claron Hayden as Dragon, Paul Strickland as Man & Torie Wiggins as Woman. Claron has a great, exotic look for the Dragon and gives the role a laissez-faire, yet calculating feel. It was great to see Paul in a more dramatic role and he handled it well. Torie was solid as usual; however I just felt her role could have used a bit more meat. I would have liked to have seen a couple of instances where the bickering between Man and Woman dropped away so the audience could see that they did have a solid relationship even if they were going through a hard time. In hand with that, I understand why their child doesn’t appear on stage, but his presence wasn’t really felt, either. The sterile kitchen could have been dressed with his school books spread across the table, or his drawings and pictures on the fridge or even his action figures on the windowsill. I felt that his “presence” would have raised the stakes of her “should I stay or should I go” decision.
I really liked the set design by Andrew Hungerford, but for me there were two problems. For the kitchen set, I found the size of it confining. When all three actors were in the space, they didn’t seem to have enough room to easily move past each other, so those scenes felt visually static to me. For the outside play area, the clay/cave texture and burnt plastic looked great, but it seemed unnecessarily wide, impacting the intimacy of the show.
Costume designer Noelle Johnson put together great looks for both dragons. Hungerford’s lighting design and the sound and projections of Doug Borntrager were great additions to the atmosphere of the show.
Overall, a solid production of an uneven script.
My rating: 4.0 out of 5
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