Regional Reviews: Phoenix - Two Mile Hollow Stray Cat Theatre

Sunday, January 20, 2019
Talkin' Broadway


From The Seagull to Long Day's Journey into Night and August: Osage County, plays that focus on dysfunctional families have been a staple in the theatre for over a hundred years. Playwright Leah Nanako Winkler has crafted a satirical spin on these familiar familial dramas, which almost always feature a Caucasian family, with her piece Two Mile Hollowthat requires a cast of non-white actors to portray the recognizable, white theatrical characters in her play. Stray Cat Theatre presents the local premiere of the comedy with a cast who excel at evoking the absurdities of their characters and delivering the humor in the script.

Stray Cat's cast excel at the humor in the piece and all throw themselves into their parts with broad humor and overly expressive gestures. As the twice-divorced Mary, who claims she's never had anyone love her and is constantly belittled by her family members, Erin Kong is superb, showing Mary's vulnerability and pain. As Mary's brother, who thinks he's worthless, Kane Black evokes the perfect balance of shyness, depression and low self-esteem. Vinny Chavez is hilarious as their successful brother Christopher who seems to have it all, though, while he's got two Oscar nominations, he's most well known for playing the part of "Dr. McDrill-Me" on a TV show. So, even Christopher has things to complain about.

Constantly holding court whenever she's in the room while ruling with an iron fist, Dolores Mendoza is excellent as Blythe, the woman who is used to getting her way and treating the "help" as if they are far lesser individuals. Mendoza's grand gestures and authoritative way of speaking create a solid and sturdy portrayal of this matriarch. As Charlotte, the play's only sane and mostly reasonable character, Samantha Hanna creates a woman who is well equipped to hold her own against the Donnelly foursome.

Louis Farber's direction keeps the humorous moments bright while allowing the few serious scenes to resonate. With moving boxes and items strewn about, scenic designer Aaron Sheckler and properties designer Michael Peck evoke, within reason, the grandeur of a house that's been sold, with its contents in various stages of being packed up. Dallas Robert Nichols' lighting beautifully portrays the daytime and nighttime scenes while also shifting our focus, appropriately, between moments that take place at the same time in various rooms in the house.