Dark & Stormy strikes again with The Drunken City
Sara Marsh and Kris L. Nelson
Over the past couple of years, Dark & Stormy Productions has emerged as a small theater company with the clout to get top Twin Cities talent to perform in intimate settings. Last year, that included productions of Speed-the-Plow and The Receptionist. The latter ended up as one of our 10 favorites from 2013, powered in part by a tremendous performance in the title role by Sally Wingert.
The company returns to the same playwright, Adam Bock, but with a slightly brighter tone in The Drunken City. The play takes on an evening-long bender, where alcohol not only represses inhibitions, but reveals to at least one character that she has made a terrible mistake.
Over the course of the play's 75 minutes, two groups of friends who are out for the night in a nameless city meet and interact, changing their lives in the process. On one side we have Marnie, Linda, and Melissa, a trio of co-workers and friends who have been celebrating their respective engagements for several weeks. This time out, it is Marnie's turn to be the woman of honor.
Along the way, this group meets up with Frank and Eddie, who happen to be from the same place as the trio and are out for a night on the town. Both are bachelors, though Frank still pines for the woman who left him more than a year ago. Their chance meeting would just be one of many in any late night at the bars, except that Marnie and Frank make an instant connection. That leads to a kiss, which leads to the chaos of the play.
Considering the brevity of the show — and that most of the characters are dead drunk for most of it — it is remarkable how the actors are able to take up the challenge and produce a funny, vibrant piece that also offers a taste of darkness.
Leading the charge are Sara Marsh and Kris L. Nelson as Marnie and Frank. While all of the characters are somewhat lost in their day-to-day lives, this pair seems to be in crisis. Their unexpected and immediate chemistry works to draw us into the story, while their subtle play during the final, sober meeting is particularly heartbreaking.
Marnie's friends, Melissa (Adelin Phelps) and Linda (Tracey Maloney), are interesting studies in contrast. Phelps brings out the bitterness that consumes Melissa after her own engagement was scuttled by a cheating fiancé. Maloney has to be fun as the free-spirited Linda, but also show us there is some turmoil inside.
There's also chemistry at work in the background of the show, as Eddie (Paul de Cordova) meets up with Bob (Ben McGovern). Bob is the ladies' employer and friend, and arrives on the scene perfectly clear-headed, which makes negotiating the chaos of the evening all the more frustrating. Meanwhile, he and Eddie let their slowly growing attraction build throughout the show, and we watch as these characters become the secret heroes of the piece.
Director Bill McCallum gives the messy proceedings a sharp focus and physical snap. For a show about a bunch of inebriates, The Drunken City is engaging, fun, and memorable, all the more so for the theater's intimate setting.
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