Dallas — Under the direction of Andi Allen, Camp Death Productions’ staging of Ben Schroth’s The Tragical Farce of Jimmy Pine leaves much to be desired. While there are shining moments, the production fails to deliver as either a farce or a tragedy (despite the title’s assertion that it is both), leading to a less-than-satisfying experience.
Yoshiwana’s House of Pleasure (“Putting the SYN in Sin Since 2045”) is the location of our dystopian future in which Synthetic Humans are used and sold for a variety of tasks, both professional and personal. When one of these creations, Jimmy, starts to pine for a life as a real boy, relationships tussle, and lives change.
Schroth’s script, which gives more than a subtle nod to Pinocchio, pushes to create a world without hope in which love can be found in unlikely places. Unfortunately, the message that comes across the most clearly is the insinuation that the purpose of a woman is as a vessel for the achievement of men’s goals. Despite a few chuckles and the occasional tug of a heartstring, the bitter taste of this implication is hard to swallow.
The performances from the cast are uneven, although there are a few standouts. Robin Clayton as Martirio is a breath of fresh air and chemistry, even if her acting talent, like the value of a woman, is somewhat wasted in this script. Gerald Taylor as Cricket adds a note of kindness and sentimentality to a world filled with lascivious characters and seedy goings-on. As Jimmy Pine’s owner, Gip, Kevin Michael Fuld favors leaning into a thick caricature accent instead of connecting with the other actors and the world around him. Thankfully, the show’s chance for success rests squarely on the shoulders of David Helms in the title role. He is spot-on in his rendition of a synthetic human, both in his movements and vocal cadence. With his performance grounding the show, The Tragical Farce of Jimmy Pine gets a dose of empathy from the audience who might otherwise check out early.
Allen’s direction is also a bit uneven. She has chosen to deal with the challenges of a festival schedule by creating the setting with projections and a few set pieces instead of bulky settings. She makes several smart choices with the set pieces that do exist, including a clever bit of business in a graveyard. In this, she is quite successful. She is less effective in tamping down the scene-stealing antics of some background players whose overacting does more harm than good to the play. Props by Mason Bunkelman err on the side of a child’s make-believe tale, a jarring juxtaposition against the more adult-themed plot. Costumes by Ande Bewley and sound by Allen get the job done without drawing attention to themselves.
Faults aside, The Tragical Farce of Jimmy Pine is worth seeing for the performances from Helms, Clayton, and Taylor. It is their devotion to the play that makes it bearable; everything else pales in comparison.
» The Tragical Farce of Jimmy Pine continues in the following performance blocks:
- 5pm Saturday, July 21
- 5pm Saturday, July 28
- 8pm Friday, Aug. 3
- 5pm Saturday, Aug. 4
The 20th Festival of Independent Theatres
July 13- August 4, 2018
Bath House Cultural Center,
521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas
Tickets and passes go on sale in late June
Call 800-617-6904 or visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org