TIN CAT SHOES from Washington Ensemble Theatre
Dear Readers, remember Mad Libs from when we were kids? That little book of puzzles where you would ask for random items from a group in order to fill out a story. And remember how when we got the final result we would laugh and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all? Schutz Shoes Ever tried to read those again? They’re not that funny. Now imagine reading those for 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the current show from Washington Ensemble Theatre, “Tin Cat Shoes” feels as if it were written by a series of Mad Libs as it’s a mishmash of ridiculous elements thrown together in a manic way for 90 minutes and the awkward laughs that it might have elicited from the start of the show quickly waned.
Allow me to try and explain the story. I say “try” as there really isn’t one. We have a group of hyper-enthusiastic shoe store employees, Gemma, Pepper, Cheddar, and Lunch (Gloria Alcalá, Kiki Abba, Rachel Guyer-Mafune, and Mario Orallo-Molinaro), at Tin Cat Shoes. Right from the start, the store seems to be run in the most haphazard way as the employees are boxing up shoes that have been left in a pile on the floor. While doing this they share stories to the new person, Gemma. Enter their equally enthusiastic manager Rex (Drew Highlands) who announces that instead of staying at the store to receive the shipment of the new hot shoe, they’re all going to go on a camping trip in the woods like some crazed Scout Troop. While there, they encounter a bear who mauls one of them to death. Or maybe it doesn’t, they can’t decide. Then they argue over calling for help and eventually end up in a casino.
If you’re confused, then you’re exactly where I was last night. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to grasp whatever they were trying to convey but it appeared that this play had no story, no plot, no character development or arc, and no conclusion. Crazy, tangential Asics Shoes things happened and then it was over. It felt like someone told playwright Trish Harnetiaux that the funniest show was “Seinfeld” (a show which I don’t find funny by the way) because it was about nothing and said that it could never be topped, at which point Harnetiaux said, “Hold my beer”.
To make matters worse, this was all from a company I like, from actors I like, and from a director (Maggie L. Rogers) I like. I’ve seen so much better from them. But even the usually solid direction from Rogers felt chaotic as the pacing was uneven and choppy. And the performances were all so consistently over the top that there was nowhere for any of them to go. They all started at 11 and never wavered. And nonsense at 11 is still nonsense.
Honestly, the best thing I can say about the show is that the set and costumes from Parmida Ziaei and Michael Notestine were quite colorful and fun to look at. But that wasn’t enough. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Washington Ensemble Theatre’s production of “Tin Cat Shoes” a “what did I just watch?!” NAH. With no story to grab onto or message they were trying to convey, I just couldn’t find the point of being there.
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