“We are architects of out-of-the-ordinary experiences.” Theatre Ninjas is most definitely that, and tonight did not sway far from the runway with Melissa James Gibson’s play titled [sic], opening at the 78th Street Studios. Theatre Ninjas has performed in more places than I have left my wallet over the years, morphing themselves in material, artists and interpretations to create stimulating, pulsating theatre. Annie and her orphans will never sing here, but what is created and guided by Jeremy Paul (Artistic Director, Producer), who has helmed since 2006, is a poetic convolution of artistic stimuli to the delight of his audience.
[sic], directed with breakneck speed and crafted timing by Pandora Robertson, holds the audience by allowing us to shadow the main characters in and out of their apartments. Sic is a Latin term, when appearing in writing, as a signal to the reader that an apparent mistake is, in fact, an accurate statement. Characters exist at arm’s length from their own situations. [sic] is a hilarious look into three interrupted lives characterized by Gibson's singular insight into conversational idiosyncrasies and keen playwriting talent. If only Babette can get this book deal, if Theo can finish his roller coaster theme song, and if Frank can launch his auctioneer career their dreams will come true... or so they think. [sic] is about friendship; about giving it your all and not getting a lot back; and about how when things are at their darkest, your friends will be there for you, if only because they need to borrow money...or want to hook up.
We physically see this with a divine scenic design by Val Kozlenko, angled floors, naked apartments, working windows, and a back lit screen that allows the shadows artistically executed by Courtney Nicole Auman and Michael Prosen to tell the story of a diminishing relationship so well that Attraction Shadow Theatre would be proud. To compliment the design, another level of artistic interpretation is provided by lighting designer Gregory S. Falcione. He deftly illuminates the action with pinpoint accuracy, mobilized moments, and a haunting rooftop crescendo.
Our protagonists are Babette, Frank, and Theo, portrayed with neurotic love by Rachel Lee Kolis, Gabriel Riazi, and Ryan Lucas. Kolis delivers such a beautiful (literally) and complex woman that it reminds me of a human Jenga tower, and if the wrong section is taken out, the whole damn tower is going to fall in a heartbeat. The tension of her decisions, struggles with her craft, and her handling man love is wonderful. Riazi is a glorious hot mess. He imbibes his character with an appealing nuance as he comically navigates through literally losing his boyfriend and pursuing his dream of an auctioneer. Riazi takes the fruitcake as Frank rehearses his auctioneer speech, turning slowly into a pulsating, body shifting experience to behold. And his tongue deserves its own curtain call for getting through the verbal twisters thrown at him from the script. Lucas creates a mistaken lover in his own mind, which propels Theo to emotional roller coaster status. Of course, he has the gift of creating music that turns into the journey from hell to hilarious effect. Empowered by an eyebrow that Sparta would be proud of, Lucas takes us on a great ride of neurotic delight.
Original Music by Michael Bratt blends into the evening’s success. Stephanie Fisher provided a costume design that enables multiple looks that engage.
There are many types of theatre, and they are all important. Theatre Ninjas is a tremendous source of artistic expression. I hope you get out to see the show and check out their season.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
Staff and Cast:
Director: Pandora Robertson
Courtney Nicole Auman
Rachel Lee Kolis
February 27 - March 15
$10-$20 General Admission at the Door
78th Street Studios (2nd Floor)
1300 W. 78th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44102