Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Dragon Play by Jenny Connell, Shrewd Productions at the Blue Theatre, March 22 - April 14

by Michael Meigs

The Dragon Play, Jenny Connell, Shrewd Productions Austin TX

The Dragon Play confused me as I sat in the front row of the sparsely populated Blue Theatre on opening weekend. That was deliberate on the part of playwright Jenny Connell, abetted by Shrewds director Shannon Grounds.

The Dragon Play Jenny Conell Shrewd Productions Austin TXThe director has given away enough of the story in a second video interview just released by the company, so I'm releasing no 'spoiler' by telling you the company is presenting two dragon plays, starkly different in style, alternating scenes with one another.

One is a whimsical creature story of a boy who discovers a magic dragon in the attic and adopts it. The two live in their own little magic world sheltered from the outside and from any intrusion by adults.

The other play is a grim tale of a deeply dysfunctional marriage visited by a stiff-faced former suitor who appears to have every intention of carrying away the wife.

I found it remarkably uncomfortable to be obliged to shift the gears in my suspension of disbelief. That uneasiness pushed me to an annoyed sensitivity. Childhood's droll whimsey failed to please because it was overridden by the dark drama and sharp edges of the other story. Dialogue that I'd normally have happily swallowed sounded false because of the contrast of styles -- particularly the leaden nothings assigned much of the time to Rommel Sulit as he portrayed the working class husband aware that something was going wrong.

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