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Open: 01/29/09- Close: 02/15/09 Raised In Captivity
Reviewed for By: Ashley Griffin
Nathan Johnson ©2020  Josh Lefkowitz* and Jennifer Dorr White*

If Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean collaborated on a children’s-book version of Angels in America set in a dollhouse, you would have something akin to Red Fern Theatre Company’s production of Raised in Captivity, by Nicky Silver.

Nathan Johnson ©2020  Bryant Mason* and Emille Elizabeth Miller

The Red Fern Theatre Company is a company that you just want to like. Each play they produce is meant to address social issues ranging from local to global and is paired with a philanthropy whose work relates to the social themes of the play. A portion of ticket sales is donated to the designated philanthropy. There’s even a friendly atmosphere when you enter the lobby.

Their latest offering, Raised in Captivity, is a dark comedy about twin siblings who deal with guilt, redemption, self-punishment, and revealed secrets following their mother’s untimely death. Add in a deranged masochistic therapist, a convicted felon, and a dentist who’s afraid of teeth, and you’ve got a pretty good picture.

The actors are lovely. Josh Lefkowitz as the brother Sebastian comes across as a darker, more brooding (and certainly older) Charlie Brown, while Emilie Elizabeth Miller as his sister Bernadette makes a nice character arc. In the first scene you laugh at how truly crazy Bernadette is. By the end, you realize she’s actually the sanest person onstage. Jennifer Dorr White is fun, if slightly over the top as the deranged blind therapist Hillary, but she really shines in her dual role as Sebastian and Bernadette’s mother, Miranda. She showcases herself not so much in each character on their own, but in her transition between the two. Conversely, it was difficult to distinguish between Jose Joaquin Perez’s dual roles as convict Rodger and gigolo Dylan – though he did an excellent job, and Bryant Mason demonstrated the largest character arc as Bernadette’s husband, Kip. There were a couple of almost-dropped lines during the evening, but they were quickly recovered.

Nathan Johnson ©2020  Jennifer Dorr White*

 The design was excellent all around. Special recognition has to go to Eliza Brown’s scenic design – which is largely responsible for the description at the beginning of this review. The pairing of the sets with Jessica Greenberg’s lights was inspired – together they created a series of shelves, illuminated from inside, that brilliantly created different locations just by opening some and closing others, and added to the creepy dollhouse-like feeling. Emily DeAngelis’s costumes were lovely, as were Ashton Giaume’s props and Daniel Kluger’s sound design. This was a rare example of all the designers being completely in sync and telling a unified story. Dominic D’Andrea’s direction was clear, and his detailed direction involving the use of microphones to speak directly to the audience (and his coordination of using them to be at once in and out of the scene) was spot on.

And yet, something just didn’t quite click. It was quickly paced, but felt long. The play was funny, but no one really laughed. It was sad, but no one cried. The point of the evening never quite came together. It was almost Christopher Durang, but not quite. It was almost Neil Gaiman, but not quite.

It was almost moving, but not quite. 

Shell Theater : 300 West 43rd Street