Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Seattle’s theatre starlet, Hannah Victoria Franklin, gives yet another knockout performance in Washington Ensemble Theatre’s latest production, “Tall Skinny Cruel Cruel Boys,” written by Caroline V. McGraw and directed by Jane Nichols.

This odd, quasi-surrealistic play revolves around the story of “Brandy,” (played by Franklin), the city’s most sought-after children’s birthday party clown, who likes to entertain by blowing more than just party balloons and birthday cake candles.

Between occupying snotty-nosed kids with her clown antics and entertaining those same kids’ cheating fathers and teenage brothers with her sex act, “Brandy” is quite the busy professional, but she cannot avoid the monster underneath her bed, the one that rips and claws at her each night.

This show is all about “Brandy,” and Ms. Franklin’s hard-hitting performance is a force to be reckoned with. All eyes (and hands … and claws …) remain on the star of the show, dazzled by her seductive routine.

Complementing her performance was the set design, which includes the “claw design and construction” as well, by Pete Rush, Jake Nelson and Marc-Anthony Lee.  Once again, the tiny stage of the theatre was well-utilized so as to bring to fruition a play that could, otherwise, be quite demanding to do from a scenographic perspective.

However, the designers helped to keep the show moving with a fluid, open design, appropriately set under the ‘Big Top’ tent. And of course, the “Audrey 3”-esque monster claw that comes alive at night to devour everyone’s favorite party girl-clown, is an impressive piece of stagecraft.

The play itself is sort of a mixed bag. What I did appreciate was the self-conscious and meta-theatrical elements of its dramatic composition; the attention given by the playwright, in particular, to the notion of “performance” and the perverse exchange that takes place between the exhibitionist and the voyeur, between the actor and the audience, was well manifested in the production.

And although the play does attempt to explore a number weighty themes, it loses itself in itself; it never really advances in terms of plot or action, nor does it come to any profound conclusions or realizations in terms of the questions the playwright seems to be pondering. In short, things just kind of hang and fizzle dramaturgically.

Luckily, WET had an actress as skilled as Ms. Franklin to give the knockout punch that the playwright failed to deliver. Right away, she captures the audience’s attention and takes them away on a psychological and meta-theatrical journey into a strange and desperate world where she performs to everyone’s delight, and perhaps to her own demise.

“Tall Skinny Cruel Cruel Boys” plays May 31-June 24 at Washington Ensemble Theatre. Visit www.washingtonensemble.org for more info.Hannah Victoria Franklin for Washington Ensemble Theatre 0048 photo credit LaRae Lobdell(1) WEB.full

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