Friday, November 22

Curtain calls


"The Shaggs"

“The Shaggs”

Powerhouse Theatre Company




Right after delivering a rollicking, bells-and-whistles
rendition of the song “Career Day,” actors in the play
“The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World” promptly step out
of their characters (at least temporarily), slap on their stagehand
hats, and proceed to reconfigure the set in front of the audience.
The double duty infuses the play with a do-it-yourself spunk, and
surprisingly does little to diminish the actors’ bread and
butter ““ their believability.

Perhaps inspired by VH1′s “Behind the Music,”
the Powerhouse Theatre Company’s production of “The
Shaggs,” currently showing at [Inside] the Ford, chronicles
the ill-fated career of the Wiggin sisters.

Straight out of Fremont, New Hampshire, the sisters are
portrayed brilliantly by Hedy Burress (Helen), Sarah Hays (Betty)
and Jamey Hood (Dot), and are immediate crowd favorites, all the
while removing cumbersome props in between scenes. The image of
Hays and Hood pushing back an entire side of the Wiggin house (a
cleverly constructed set to say the least) is particularly
memorable, and suggests that the set shift process is a character
in itself ““ almost the highlight of the play.

The lowlight would be the decision to devote so much of the play
to Austin Wiggin, the girls’ blue collar dad with a short
fuse. Steven Patterson, who makes his veins bulge like an on/off
switch, turns in an intense performance as Austin, but the play is
called “The Shaggs” after all.

Even though he created The Shaggs, drove them and ultimately
ended their run, Austin’s dominance in the play only robs
Burress, Hays and Hood of the chance to fully explore the
sisters’ personalities. Every move the sisters make seem to
be on a whim, perhaps because their decision-making process did not
receive enough stage time.

Another consequence of shining the spotlight on Austin is the
play’s lack of definition: Is it a comedy or a drama?
Austin’s constant verbal abuse and the band’s eventual
break-up pushes the play toward tragedy territory. For those
expecting a rockumentary like “Spinal Tap,” the play
contains too many dramatic moments to be considered a sarcastic
poke at rock music. Yet it creates just enough giggles with the use
of puppets, offbeat drumming and off-key guitar play, and puppy
love humor to disqualify itself as a textbook drama.

-David Chang

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