Hip Shot: The D.C. State Players present Agamemnon
GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square
Friday, July 19, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 20, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 23, 9:45 p.m.
Thursday, July 25, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 27, 9:00 p.m.
They Say: "The D.C. State Players present Agamemnon is arguably and indisputably the best community theatre production in Southern Maryland, Northern Virginia, Central DC, Western Ohio and possibly the world!"
Brett's Take: Man, I really wanted to like this one a whole bunch, but I ended up only liking it kinda alright. The reason my expectations were so high is the quality of the supplemental material. The artists committed so fully to their concept that I believed the show would feature an Andy Kaufman-esque level of lived-in satire and would be a total laugh riot. Ultimately, though, it's just a broad comedy about bad actors, pompous directors and stage disasters plaguing an attempted show, a well-worn trope in itself from the mechanicals of Midsummer Night's Dream down to Waiting for Guffman.
In this particular instance, the poor players we will be extracting our schadenfreude from are "The D.C. State Players," led by "Tonee Bollocks" (Tony Bullock) and featuring "Gabriel Sweetbottom" (Gabriel Swee). The Players are just as inept as Mr. Bollocks is convinced of his genius in directing them. And they are bringing us Mr. Bollocks' adaptation of Aeschylus' Agamemnon.
Or trying to; Mr. Bollocks steers the performance as best as he can despite absentee actors and technical issues, and for a while, the rapidly devolving "show" is giggle-inducing and promising. We meet the rest of the cast: "Ashley San" (Ashley San, the MVP, awesome at being terrible), the clumsy, spastic Clytemnestra with a thirst for stage blood; "A.J. Calbert" (A.J. Calbert), the Agagmemnon, a black man Bollocks makes some rather demeaning demands of; "Tobias Franzen" (Tobias Franzen), etiquette-challenged stage manager; and belligerent, ambitious Chorus girls "Briana Manente" (Briana Manente) and preteen "Brianna Meriwether" (Brianna Meriwether). The show's fleet first half has the comic set-up of the best comedy knockouts, priming us with recurrent jokes (such as San's desire for buckets of blood) for big payoffs later.
Sadly, while some chuckles are earned throughout, two things keep us from reaching the gut-busting heights (or depths). One is a lack of follow-through, exemplified by the partial payoff of San's bloodlust: When she finally comes onstage as we expect, she's more red than she needs to be, but it's not anywhere near ridiculously Carrie-ish enough to have gotten any laughs from my audience.
The other, larger problem is what feels like twenty minutes of the show devoted to the escalating fistfight between the two Chorus gals. It's awkward and unfunny, given Meriwether's youth, seeing punches be 'thrown' at her, even in slow, obvious stage combat. Their long, long fight has no jokes to offer except its increasing nastiness. This comedy was meant to be a painfully pricking satire of egos and hubris, a display of good-bad comic timing—not a saucy, violent brawl. When it keeps to its original track, it's no mean delight, but too many of The D.C. State Players present Agamemnon's sixty minutes are off-note to be wholly satisfying.
See it if: You can manage your expectations.
Skip it if: You hold an untarnished view of the importance of theatre.