Aaron Riccio on The Angel Eaters Trilogy

(Photo: Justin Hoch.)

Aaron Riccio was our first intrepid reviewer to brave all three shows in the trilogy, and his insightful reviews are posted on his own website, That Sounds Cool, and at New Theatre Corps. He connected most deeply with Rattlers, but has insight into all three productions, some of which I’ve included below, alongside some new production photographs. Hope to see you at the theatre!

Aaron Riccio
Being dragged over to a wooden box filled with rattlesnakes while you’re bound and gagged is never a good way to start your day, but it’s a great way to start a play, and in Rattlers, Johnna Adams finds her bite, sinking her teeth in quicker than the eye can follow, and never letting up.

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: Scott Drummond, Jason Paradine, Amy Lynn Stewart)

The unfortunate victim here is Osley (Jason Paradine), and he’s been kidnapped by his ex-girlfriend Ernelle (Amy Lynn Stewart) and her hyperactive boyfriend Snake (Scott Drummond); they expect him to resurrect Ernelle’s murdered sister, regardless of the cost. Meanwhile, at the funeral home, Ernelle’s brother-in-law, the rascal Everett (Richard B. Watson), is having a casual conversation with the creepy undertaker, Ted (Matthew Crosby), in which it seems more and more likely that one of them is the murderer.

(Photo: Justin Huch. Pictured: Matthew Crosby, Richard Watson)

And in yet another connected but distant scene, Ernelle’s mother, Mattie (Jane Lincoln Taylor) is looking for vengeance, although Shane (David Jackson) is hoping she’ll just accept his devoted love instead.

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: Jane Taylor, David Jackson).

By splitting the action (Jerry Ruiz’s direction helps it hop along), Adams is able to do her entire trilogy on a micro level, from the comic horrors that the Bonnie and Clyde-like Snake and Ernelle are cooking up to the morbid romance between Shane and Mattie, and the True Blood-like subtexts in the easygoing twangs between Everett and Ted. It also gives her a chance to really focus on more than exposition–there’s less plot and more character development, and that’s a gift given the outstanding actors, every last one of them, in this production. Things amble along, instead of rushing to conclusions, and part of the fun in Rattlers is trying to guess what these tight-lipped characters will do next (or, with Snake, what he won’t do).

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: Jason Paradine, Amy Lynn Stewart, Scott Drummond)

Adams has a terrific voice, and her stories actually work on multiple levels. For instance, Ted’s tale about sleeping next to the corpse of his obsession is rooted in the subtext in Everett’s face as he listens–after all, he was married to her.

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: Matthew Crosby, Richard Watson)

The same goes for the look of resignation in Shane’s eyes when he realizes that the woman he loves has drugged him, or the way Ernelle’s good humor evaporates when she realizes that threatening to hurt Osley’s daughter won’t help–that she’ll have to kill one girl to bring back another.

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: David Jackson, Jane Taylor)

This last bit captures the full effect of the trilogy, too: what price won’t we pay to get back the ones we love?

(Photo: Justin Hoch. Pictured: Jason Paradine)

Angel Eaters
Aaron Riccio
If you liked Carnivale and prefer plot to character, Johnna Adams’s mystical Angel Eaters is the play for you: con men, weird girls, and angry mothers kicking up a storm in the Dust Bowl era. Stay for Marnie Schulenburg’s performance as a touched young girl, and for Jessi D. Hill’s atmospheric direction: creepy, yet satisfying.
8 Little Antichrists
Aaron Riccio
After seeing all three parts of Johnna Adams’s ambitious, generation-spanning Angel Eaters Trilogy, I can’t shake the image of the playwright as a smarter version of the evil “Mama” who shows up in Part Three. She sits in a giant vat, but rather than absorbing nutrients, she takes in the pop culture of the last thirty years, and instead of churning out clones and selling them for organs, she fires out plays. Her distinct voice shines through this batch of trips: comic exposition often well-hidden by clever circumstances…Each play succeeds (and fails) on its own, which means there’s something for everyone, especially fans of Flux Theatre Ensemble, who will spend twenty days straight being just as ambitious as Adams.
The hero this time around is a Philip K. Dick-brand detective, Claudia (Candice Holdorf), who is investigating the death of her clone sister, Sara Jane, only to find that there may be more to the murder than she suspects. Along the way, she falls for one of the suspects, Jeremy (Zack Robidas), but not before he is kidnapped by fallen angels Sem and Zaz (Felicia Hudson and Elise Link, channeling a fashionably authoritative Mod Squad vibe) and forced to resurrect the octuplet antichrists, cloned from the Dahmers and Gengis Khans of the world. To make things more convoluted, the clone mother is Claudia’s Mama (Nora Hummel), a self-obsessed nag who lives in a nutrient-pumping vat and dreams of the day when she’ll have sold enough of her offspring to upgrade. Oh, and Jeremy’s paranoid sister, Melanie (Rebecca McHugh) has actually found the vessel of God in a happy meal–if only she can pry it away from the Clockwork Orange-like drizz-heads, Thump and Fibber (Jake Alexander and Joe Mathers, high-octane comic relief). Cue the over-the-top action.

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