It seemed appropriate to end a week that started with two Kentuckians walking off with Tony Awards catching the work of another Kentucky theater artist who has gone off to create in a bigger playground.
This weekend Actors Guild of Lexington is hosting Danville native Rowen Haigh and her Baltimore-based White Flag Performance Group in a presentation of its original work, Really You Should Use Bullets. Yes, a graduate school-based theater collective on the stage of Actors Guild’s South Elkhorn Theatre is a long way from the lights of New York’s Beacon Theatre, where Ashland native Steve Kazee picked up a Tony for best actor in a musical for Once Sunday night and Elizabethtown’s Darron West was honored for best sound design of a play for Peter and the Starcatcher.
But it was abundantly clear that Haigh and her colleagues from Townson State University have an abundance of creativity that could someday blaze a path to much larger stages.
Bullets is a dark delight that starts with a sad clown committing suicide in a way that drew a combination of laughter and sniffs from the audience.
Immediately after arriving in the afterlife, Clown is stripped of her clown status because suicide in very unfunny and not worthy of a clown. Her nose and voice are amputated, and she is told by a terse, disembodied voice, “You are a mime.” That prompts actress Lesley Berkowitz to deliver a silent scream to rival Edvard Munch, starting her journey through heaven and hell, which we learn are both brought to us by Johnson & Johnson, Disney and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Amy Kronzer complements Berkowitz’s engaging miming with a hilarious cast of characters from the sinister sweet concierge in heaven to a snarky cellphone friend in hell to, who else, Marcel Marceau.
It’s a quick redemption tale that addresses the human longing to belong and its sometimes less than desirable consequences, life and death and annoyances — in hell, you have to watch Dane Cook woodshed new material three times a day.
White Flag was born out of a desire by Haigh and co-artistic director Sean Mahoney to create an artistic outlet outside of the graduate school curriculum. Their plans, they said Thursday night, are to continue as a traveling collective presenting innovative new works like Bullets, which is a growing trend in theater. Who knows where it will take each or all of them? As Haigh told us, the company name is an acknowledgement of the shifting world of theater.
But like Kazee and West, Haigh was raised in the theatrical community of Kentucky. And as those gentlemen demonstrated Sunday, with that as your basis, the possibilities are unlimited.