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2019 FESTIVAL OF INDEPENDENT THEATRES

Gazelle Garcia and Leena Conquest in <em>Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel</em>&nbsp;from Imprint Theatreworks

FIT Review: Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

In Cameron Casey's play for Imprint Theatreworks, a grandma and her (grown) grandchild are both looking for a getaway.



published Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Photo: Imprint Theatreworks
Gazelle Garcia and Leena Conquest in Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel from Imprint Theatreworks

 

DallasDirty Dirty Night Squirrel, the FIT entry from Imprint Theatreworks, has all the ingredients for an interesting exploration into aging, identity, and relationships with family and significant others, but never cooks them into anything that feels more than half-baked.

Night Squirrel (referring to one character’s childish name for an attic-dwelling opossum) details a day at the zoo with Dorothy (Leena Conquest) and her grandchild Lee (Gazelle Garcia). It’s a sort of last hurrah for Dorothy, who used to be a zoo employee in her heyday (and a good one too, judging by her still sharp, incisive lectures on zoology). She’s about to be shipped off to a nursing home at the behest of her impatient son Clayton (Josh Hepola), to be “observed and placed on a controlled feeding schedule,” as she wryly observes. Lee, a broke college student, reluctantly accompanies “Gam-Gam,” who is still mobile but uses a cane and a wheelchair to get around.

Lee (who uses non-binary pronouns, as does Garcia) is living with their girlfriend, the deeply unpleasant Mary (Courtney Mentzel). We first meet Mary stalking around the zoo (fairly literally—she’s tracked Lee’s cell phone), looking for Lee and upbraiding them for prioritizing family over Mary, who lets Lee live with her rent-free. An overzealous zoo attendant, Steve, played by Krishawna "Chief" Belle, garners some chuckles, but seems a random addition to the story.

Dorothy rightly notes that “Mary’s a bitch,” and much as Lee would like to break up with her, they have nowhere else to go, much like Dorothy. Dorothy’s attempts to push Lee into breaking up with Mary and striking out on their own provoke Lee into abandoning Dorothy at the zoo, sunburned and wheelchair-less. Lee and Dorothy eventually reconcile, and concoct a scheme to Thelma-and-Louise it—to disappear from the zoo and live life on their own terms, away from the confinement of their loved ones’ care and feeding.

Directed by Taylor Mercado Owen and written by local actor/playwright and frequent FIT contributor Cameron Casey, the play has some interesting elements, but none that add up to a particularly coherent whole. The framing device of zoological lectures from Dorothy on the opossum that are suggestive of Dorothy’s and Lee’s situations—she calls it an animal whose “only hope of survival is deception…not useful to anyone, but it knows what it wants, and it gets it”—works well enough, doesn't provide enough structure to support the whole show; and the metaphor of both Lee and Dorothy as animals in captivity is labored.

Both Conquest and Garcia give strong performances, and Conquest in particular has an imperturbability about her that draws laughs. But neither character is written with sufficient emotional depth to carry the play forward successfully, and the emotional center of the piece (their relationship) feels forced. Other characters are even more thinly drawn: Mary in particular, though Mentzel gamely finds the funny aspects of the character, is a caricature of the obsessive, bitchy girlfriend, not a person. A rhinoceros ballet interlude near the end (choreographed by Mindy Neuendorff and performed by Mentzel and Hepola with impressive flexibility) feels like an absurdity in search of another play.

The set design for the piece is straightforward and effective in suggesting a zoo environment, as is the lighting and costume design. (I enjoyed Lee’s denim-on-denim outfit, and Dorothy’s African-inspired blouse with giraffe hoop earrings.) The sound design, incorporating birdsong and exotic animal noises, is at times overwhelmingly loud, and there seem to be a few issues around the timing of particular sound effects that may need to be worked on before additional performances.

Imprint is a rising star on the DFW theater scene, and we're looking forward to the next show of their second season, the regional premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s Kentucky in August. And the good thing about Night Squirrel is that it's part of a festival format, which means plenty of choices in case one show isn't your cup of tea.

 

» Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel is performed:

  • 5 p.m. Saturday, July 27
  • 5 p.m. Sunday, July 28
  • 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2
  • 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3

» The 21st annual Festival of Independent Theatres runs through Aug. 3, 2019 at The Bath House Cultural Center. For more information, visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org or call 1-800-617-6904.

To see a breakdown of the groups and shows, go here.

To see reviews and more coverage of FIT, see our special section here.

 

2019 FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

 

 

THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019 (8 PM)

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

Bootstraps Comedy Theater – Nerve

 

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2019 (8 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Leos Ensemble – small hours

 

FRIDAY JULY 26, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Jodi Crawford Wright in Songs My Mama Taught Me

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (2 PM)

Leos Ensemble – small hours

Lily & Joan Theatre Company – Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (5 PM)

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (8 PM)

The Very Good Dance Theatre – The 1st Annual Gay Show

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Kathryn Taylor Rose in Nobody Knows What They’re Doing

 

SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2019 (2 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

 

SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2019 (5 PM)

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2019 (8 PM)

Bootstraps Comedy Theater – Nerve

The Very Good Dance Theatre – The 1st Annual Gay Show

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2019 (8 PM)

Lily & Joan Theatre Company – Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Jodi Crawford Wright in Songs My Mama Taught Me

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 (2 PM)

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 (5 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Leos Ensemble – small hours

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 (8 PM)

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

Bootstraps Comedy Theater – Nerve

 Thanks For Reading




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FIT Review: Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel
In Cameron Casey's play for Imprint Theatreworks, a grandma and her (grown) grandchild are both looking for a getaway.
by Jill Sweeney

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