Friday, January 27, 2012





Who can make the end of the world seem so delightfully terrifying? Who can take a profoundly depressing and fatalistic view of the future and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Ronny Burkett’s latest offering is a feast for the eye and ear as a barrage of unforgettable characters, running the gamut from streetwise poodles, to over sexed Chihuahuas, reluctant cross-dressers, little girls who want to be dogs, and Elvis impersonators in camouflage gear take the stage and overwhelm spectators with their tenderness, their cruelty, and their beautifully animated humanity. This menagerie of distinct and impeccably rendered personalities share their enchanting woeful tales with an elderly boarding house matron who is a sympathetic receptacle for all of the terrifying stories of her time. Penny Plain houses all the fear and the turmoil of contemporary life within the walls of Burkett’s intricate web of brilliantly conceived individual narratives that come together in a single one hundred and forty minute tour de force.

Opening with a conversation between Penny and her beloved canine companion each new episodic dialogue reads like a separate piece of brilliant storytelling that could stand alone as a single riveting plot. Burkett, however, is renowned for his skill as a master storyteller who insists upon weaving diverse intersecting plot lines into one epic performance. Penny Plain is perhaps one of his tightest, most relentless works to date as it moves along at breakneck speed, without room for a single misplaced breath. During a Friday night performance, when he appeared to improvise seamlessly regarding a tangled puppet string, it was hard to tell whether he was ad libbing his way out of a theatrical mishap or if it was a piece of brilliantly conceived meta-theatrical flair. Burkett is so skilled and so comfortable within his world of marionettes that it is a marvel to behold.

Having seen many of his shows over the past two decades one wonders how he will come up with yet another masterpiece. Penny Plain plays with many of the same themes from earlier scripts, but like all of Burkett’s work, the text brings new insight and fresh intriguing characters into a world filled with love, fear, hope, and the frightening news of the world that seems to fill the air waves more and more with each passing day. If you like your fear infused with laughter, human kindness, and bouts of astounding poetic horror and breathtaking beauty, then Penny Plain is not to be missed.

running at Factory Theatre until February 26th

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