BONNIE AND CLYDE (11th Hour Theatre Company): Crime spree sung right off the page!

Angel Sigala & Rita Castagna in BONNIE AND CLYDE.

Angel Sigala & Rita Castagna in BONNIE AND CLYDE.

11th Hour Theatre Company’s BONNIE AND CLYDE has a rakish quality. Their approach is not about the whole gamut of memorization, stagecraft and set design – the cast had just three rehearsal days before the first performance. I guess you could call that the 11th hour. Rather than traditional stage blocking, director Megan Nicole O’Brien has the actors read from their scripts at multiple music stands lined up across the front of the stage. The accelerated format, by no means a full production, still includes lights and sound, love scenes, fights, holdups, notoriety, Gospel, and gunshots. And it moves like clockwork.

A waitress and a convict, dirt poor kids in their early 20s out of East Texas, go on a robbery spree and become legends. BONNIE AND CLYDE is about aspirations.

Clyde (played against type by Angel J. Sigala) wants to shoot and he wants to drive. He sings “Bang bang, you’re dead. Ain’t nothing I can’t do with a gun.” Bonnie (played by Temple student Rita Castagna) has two men in love with her— one is the law (Hasani Allen), the other the outlaw. She wants Clyde and she desperately wants to be famous. She’s particularly pleased that “Bonnie and Clyde” sounds better than “Clyde and Bonnie.” Being outlaws together is dangerous, and she’s game. Rita Castagna does a good turn in Bonnie’s prescient solo, “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad.”

The Barrows, Buck (Bryan Black) and Blanche (Kathleen Borrelli), sing movingly. However, when lyrics must carry all the details, songs may not be particularly memorable on their own. The amazing thing about this 11th Hour production, unusual for a Musical, is that every word that anyone sings can be heard clearly.  (They use mikes, but didn’t need to.) One heck of a good little band (piano, reeds, drums, base) provides support as it plays Frank Wildhorn’s score for this Depression Era crime story. [Lyrics: Don Black, Book: Ivan Menchell] Jaunty piano player Gina Giachero is a real pro at handling musical direction.Whiz kid Will Mullen (another Temple student), plays flute, alto sax, soprano sax, and clarinet.

Arthur Penn’s legendary movie Bonnie and Clyde came out eons ago in ’67. I idly wonder if 11th Hour’s production could be the first encounter with BONNIE AND CLYDE for some in the audience, and maybe even for the cast. As things move swiftly along, not all is made crystal clear. The flipside of clockwork is compression that can flatten the drama. For just one example, when the name “Hamer” comes up it should provide a little jolt for the audience. However, without history attached it can almost go by unnoticed in the flow.  Although most of the songs may tend to evaporate as you leave, this is an appealing Musical. Drama, well sung right off the page by a high-spirited cast makes for an unusual evening in the theater. 

[The Proscenium Theatre at the Drake] January 5-13, 2019; 11thhourtheatrecompany.org

Cast: Rita Castagna as Bonnie. Angel Sigala as Clyde. Kat Borrelli as Blanche. Bryan Black as Buck. Hasani Allen as Ted. Players/ ensemble include Mary Fishburne Megan Ruggles, Tiara Greene, Victoria Goins, Nichalas Parker, Tim Hill Tyler Ivey, Zummy Rayan. Musicians: Gina Giachero, Will Mullen, Tom Goslin, Jon Ball, Josh Neale

 

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Kathryn Osenlund, theater and film junkie, is a former National Critics Institute fellow, NEA fellow in Arts Journalism, and member of the American Theater Critics Assn Steinberg and Osborn playwriting awards committee. A Barrymore Award nominator and professor emeritus in communications and theater, Kathryn also writes for NY-based CurtainUp.com. On twitter @theatrendorphin.