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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 10 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 32
These 'kittens' ain't so innocent
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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These 'kittens' ain't so innocent

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

KITTENS IN A CAGE
ANNEX THEATRE
Through August 25


Annex Theatre loves to produce comedies - often, the quirkier the better. Shows like Alecto and the prequel Team of Heroes are fun and funny, although they don't necessarily stick to the ribs with substance.

Kittens in a Cage, their current production, billed as 'Lesbians Behind Bars,' could be such a comedy, but it's more. Here's why: Kelleen Conway Blanchard knows how to write plays. Her dialogue is smart, true to the character, idiosyncratic, and peppered with important details in throwaway lines. Her skill is evident here in the plot development, scene arrangements, and choice of characters. Sure, they're based on stereotypes (the tough prison matron, the rule-bound guard, the good-girl-gone-bad inmate, etc.), but even so, they rise above.

Junie (Francesca Mondelli), a young delinquent, is blithely glib about how she fell under bad influences who forced (forced!) her to kill a guard during a bank robbery, yet she still seems innocent and upbeat throughout. She charms her hardened firebug of a cellmate with a song on the ukulele and manages to hold her own against the Queen of the Lesbians, Jeanine (Tracy Leigh), while disarming others, personality-wise.

Junie gets thrown in prison with a bunch of older reprobates, and has to negotiate the hierarchy while keeping herself safe. Taking stereotypes to the nth degree, Blanchard includes an arsonist (Laurel Ryan) and a purported cannibal of babies (Erin Pike), and then introduces a pregnant inmate (Erin Stewart) whose baby disappears. The matron (Lisa Viertel) insists she can 'cure' her charges by zapping them with a newfangled machine that causes their brains to leak. Then there's the women's penchant for hiding things in their vaginal canals & and pulling them out when needed.

Every actor breathes life into her character and stays deeply focused on what she's called upon to do. They all deliver a slightly New Yawk accent reminiscent of the Guys and Dolls era.

They're supported with great, boobilicious costuming designed by Meaghan Darling, hair and makeup by Jana Hutchison, a workable though sketchy set by director Bret Fetzer and Ian Johnston, lights by Tess Malone, and sound by Kyle Thompson.

Original songs by Rick Miller are hysterically funny and fit the moment impeccably. Mondelli allows aural glimpses of a really fine voice, though the role doesn't call for her to be a good singer.

The ending is almost justified, although some of it seemed as though the playwright felt her creativity was waning and it was time to figure out how to stop. Still, if 85 to 90 percent of a work is solid, that's a 9.5 or better in my book. Go see this Gold Medal play - skip an Olympic event if you have to. For more information, go to www.annextheatre.org or call (206) 728-0933.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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