Inis Nua Theatre Company has established a successful model by mining the stories of contemporary British and Irish theater. Their latest production, the American premiere of Alan Harris’s LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY, is solidly grounded in its Welsh geography.
The saccharine yet surprisingly charming love story paints a visceral portrait of a dreary rural town — you can almost feel the drizzle falling on the grey streets. Certainly, we get a sense for eclectic characters who inhabit Merthyr Tydfil, from the upper class “Tory grandees” to the whimpering film-school wannabe who’s stuck making pornography.
Seth Reichgott plays many of these minor characters with skill and wit, infusing each with variegated personality and spirit. Our heart turns for his debt-ridden “Mr. Tutti-Frutti,” an ice cream truck-driver out-competed by the supermarket chain Tesco. We root for the striving Jacob, a Polish builder cum taxidermist.
This pair form the Capulet and Montague to the play’s optimistic young lovers, Ashley (Francesca Piccioni, who also plays a fiery Welsh mother) and Valentyn (Joseph Teti). The couple’s romantic hopes contrast with the bleak prospects of their town.
The contrivances by which they realize their contained dreams and cement their naive love are unlikely, and the plot and language drip with syrup (“it takes two owls to ‘twit twoo’”). So perhaps it is Harris’s adept characterization of economic pains and societal pressures which sets light romantic comedy in pleasant relief.
Tom Reing’s direction brings out all the humor and warmth, and his excellent casting choices pay dividends. Piccioni and Tett show believable chemistry. They build scenes off each other with the versatile Reichgott switching adeptly from character to character.
Perhaps best of all, Christopher Haig’s inventively minimalist set is adorned on all sides with impressive works of taxidermy from local antiquarians. LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY has its simple charms.
[Inis Nua Theatre Company at Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street] February 14-March 4, 2018; inisnuatheatre.org.