The Animal Kingdom by Ruby Thomas, now at the Connelly Theatre, is a pressure cooker of a play that glides by in a flash – Sam (Uly Schlesinger) has recently tried to kill himself and is now in an institution of some sort for his own safety and may be in a place where he might find some surcease.
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Royo delivered a resounding performance, transforming into over 12 characters experiencing the stages of alcoholism and its effects on each character’s interaction with himself and others. At times, it’s hard to tell who Man is, as his toxic masculinity dominates and elevates with the abuse of alcohol.
The cast, setting, dramatization, and well-crafted script evoked yearning, hope, sadness, heartache, and disillusionment. Sharp’s adaptation explored family, love, and social status themes as Catherine navigated whether to follow her heart or obey her father’s wishes. The audience was inexorably drawn into a story conveyed through a 90-minute production in a seemingly virtual moment.
Brine honored the music of The Smiths through an auto-biographical perspective revealing universal human needs like love, friendship, and realized ambitions. We discovered Brine’s Bible Belt roots in North Carolina and the paths leading him to New York City. The exceedingly talented Brine danced, sang, and spoke in ways that evoked uncontrollable laughter, empathy, or sublime wistful affection.
As the cast masterfully characterized Shakespeare’s saturnine work, we were inexorably drawn into the portentous tale. Supporting the account were the dim penumbra of macabre images, a panoply of sounds effects, striking musical soundscapes, the intense angular stage blocking of secondary characters in many scenes, and the gloom of a Scottish deid bell that either sought orisons or repelled evil spirits.