Tuesday, February 24, 2015

reviews - PLUTO - Stray Cat Theatre

Yolanda London, Cole Brackney and Neda Tavassoli
(photo: John Groseclose)
For more information on this production, that runs through March 7th, click here.

"You can’t help but salute Stray Cat Theatre for introducing such fascinating works to the valley – without both Stray Cat and Nearly Naked Theatre, that certain edge required in any major city’s theatre community would here be missing – but that doesn’t mean to say that all audiences will take to Steve Yockey’s play.  It’s a difficult watch; its force can be more like a punch in the face than a night at the theatre, but there’s no denying the affecting power behind Yockey’s theme.  While you can admire all the performances, plus Ron May’s assured direction, the standout is Neda Tavassoli.  As the single mother trying desperately to reconnect with her ever increasingly distant son while shunning the reality of what has occurred that morning, Tavassoli’s Elizabeth breaks your heart.  There are times when you want to reach out and assure her that no matter what, she’ll be fine in the end.  Beyond a doubt, this is her play.  Pluto, with its odd, supernatural elements, its mythology, plus its pace that never sags, is 90 minutes of non-stop, compelling viewing, but that compulsion to keep watching is akin to the same compulsion that drives you to glance at the aftermath of a terrible accident you’re passing on the interstate.  You can’t help yourself; you have to look.  It’s also one of the saddest plays you’ll ever see." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Steve Yockey's thought-provoking and disturbing new play Pluto is receiving an exceptional production from Stray Cat Theatre. It is a deeply sad and slightly confusing, yet well-crafted piece of drama with a superb cast that delivers an emotional punch. Pluto shows an alternate view of the victims of a specific type of horrific event that happens too often these days—school shootings—and the impact on those who are affected by it, and who are left to pick up the pieces afterwards. Not everything about Pluto is clear. You may be unsure about the meaning of specific images or events in the play, or slightly upset about some of the things that happen, but it will get you thinking, which is one of the greatest things about theatre. To say very much about the plot or the characters risks taking away the emotional impact and joy of discovery Yockey has imbedded into his play. All you need to know is that single mother Elizabeth and her struggling college aged son Bailey try to go about the ordinary tasks of morning life in the kitchen of their house. Neda Tavassoli and Cole Brackney are outstanding as Elizabeth and Bailey. While Brackney is excellent, it is Tavassoli who creates a character so raw, emotional, and on the edge that you will most likely never see specific secondary victims of violence in the same way again. Yolanda London brings a certain amount of care and understanding to the talking three-headed dog Cerberus. Director Ron May allows the pace to flow effectively, so the revelations come naturally yet still pack a punch. He also gets performances from his actors that are smart, realistic, and effective in never threatening to take over the emotional impact of the story. Although it has tender performances, clear direction, and well-paced revelations, Pluto may not be for everyone due to the subject matter. For anyone who wants to experience a thought-provoking play that makes you ponder and question your preconceived notions about gun violence, Pluto is highly recommended." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Pluto explores mother Elizabeth, son Bailey, his girlfriend Maxine, and the family dog as the distanced Mother tries to reconnect with her son.  It’s been so long since the pair communicated so that challenge proves impossible.  What a statement about communication’s importance. Artistic Director Ron May stages Pluto with a taunt lunacy that vividly realizes the small family’s weird take on life and how it impacts them.  May brings out fine performances from Neda Tavassoli as the mother, Elizabeth, Cole Brackney as her rebellious son, Bailey, and Yolanda London’s masterful take on the family dog who is the most logical thinker on stage." -Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"The setting of Steve Yockey's Pluto is "a suburban kitchen" in the present day, "9:30 a.m.," but this is not your average kitchen-sink drama. Yes, the heart of the action is an awkward conversation over a dining table between a trying-her-best mom and her withdrawn, petulant man-child of a son. But then there's a full-size cherry tree, in bloom and hanging upside down in the corner of the room, its roots stretching delicately toward the rafters of the theater. Pluto, directed by company founder Ron May, delivers strong performances, including Neda Tavassoli as the overwhelmed mom, Cole Brackney as her alienated son, Yolanda London as Cerberus the dog and Michael Peck as a dapper and surprisingly empathetic specter of Death. And scenic designer Eric Beeck certainly deserves kudos for that lovely cherry tree. But although Pluto may be the most ambitious of the Yockey plays to hit the Stray Cat stage, it's the least successful because it ends up being the least mysterious. The dramatic question of the plot boils down to "What the heck is going on here?" and it's all too easy to figure out the answer. After that, the play ceases to make you think, and its unsympathetic and unconvincing characters are unlikely to make you feel much, either." -Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"If Pluto, now on stage at Stray Cat Theatre, comes across as one long fever dream, that's deliberate. The point of Yockey's surrealist story is that life isn't always neat and tidy; in fact, it can be downright scary and quite awful. Director Ron May and his impressive company of players find each and every comic moment in Elizabeth's dreadful day, and make the most of what little subtlety there is in his dramatic message, besides. This is a splendid production of a noteworthy play. May has created an appropriately traditional staging for a world-gone-topsy-turvy script, and wisely refrains from restraining his players, who climb over the top of each scene without once over-acting -- particularly Gabrielle Van Buren, whose full-throttle performance as a caterwauling mystery woman is both terrifying and delightful. Cole Brackney's sometimes frantic, ultimately heartbreaking performance as Elizabeth's oddball son makes the final moments of Yockey's peculiar story all the more touching. And Neda Tavassoli offers admirable restraint as a put-upon suburban mom whose life just doesn't make much sense, today." Robrt Pela, Phoenix New Times (click here to read the complete review)

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