Review: Scary Mary and the Nightmares Nine by Amy Escobar. Produced by Annex Theatre. Directed and Scenic Design by Eddie DeHais. Puppet Design by Zane Exactly & Ben Burris. Lighting Design by Emily Leong. Sound Design by Erin Bednarz and D.B. Amromin. Costume Design by Sydney Tucker & Fantasia Oslund. Props Design by Kayla Rabe. Movement Choreography by Table Flip (Eddie DeHais, Alyza Delpan-Monley, Ryan Higgins). Dance Choreography by Alyza Delpan-Monley. Fight Choreography by Ryan Higgins. With Corinne Magin, Kiki Abba, Carter Rodriquez, Jenn Ruzumna, Cody Smith, Jordan Moeller, Kai Curtis, Emily Pike, Kelly Johnson, Raymond L. Williams, Sarah Winsor. Now through March 4, 2017 at Annex Theatre.
There’s a lot of interesting new plays on Seattle stage right now featuring strong female characters and female theater artists. One of them, is Annex Theater’s very interesting new play by Amy Escobar expanded from a one act play she wrote a couple years ago…it’s SCARY MARY AND THE NIGHTMARES NINE, a rather long winded whimsical title about….well, sometimes it’s just best to let the press release do the work for you…
When a drop of Mary’s blood falls down down to the center of the Earth, something Evil and Ancient wakes up in the shadows, and now the Hellish Horrors of the Dark have a taste for her. Mary must go on an epic quest through nine different nightmares to make a potion to put The Slither back to sleep and save her soul from its nasty gnashing teeth. A hilarious and hallucinatory fairy tale that creeps, crawls, and catapults its way through the bizarre landscape of the imagination as Mary fights for her very life amidst the ever-encroaching darkness.
OK, so what that twee blurb leaves out is the fact that Mary is suffering from depression and is having trouble living her life…the nine different “nightmares” are all things that hold Mary back (as well as many of us) and with the help of her best friend, Nell and Nell’s cat Alabaster, and under the guidance of “The Librarian” and her minions Doogan and Dirge, Mary is able to pull herself together to fight back and defeat her own demons.
Yeah…it sounds a bit heavy handed with the symbolism (it’s a bit Literary Freudian Symbolism 101 at times) but…”Scary Mary” is actually a clever and charming play with great wit, much warmth and some smartly constructed imagery that delights all the senses. Amy Escobar’s script is appropriate for most age levels (this is the rare Annex production that’s very family friendly) but it never feels too childish…it’s a mature story but grounded in the fairy tales/fantasy worlds enjoyed by young and old. It’s also aided by strong direction from Eddie Dehais who has crafted some powerfully imaginative scenes with the collaboration of a great team of designers and fellow theater artists.
Now, like most Annex works, it’s a show still in its formative stages…this isn’t a perfect show. For starters, the main character Mary is a bit of a drag…yes, the character is supposed to be depressed but she’s also a tad boring at first. Her character needs a bit of reshaping in her opening scenes. And, because of Mary’s “mehness” it also takes awhile for the play to get off the ground. There are also some awkward transitions between the individual scenes as the play progresses. There are issues with tone at times as the play veers from silly comedy to pure fantasy to stark drama; it’s hard to pull off that many types of drama and it doesn’t ALWAYS move seamlessly between each one. And, the end does drag out a bit. That said, the majority of the play is very inventive and delightful and I’d say “Scary Mary…” is about 3/4 of the way there. It just needs a bit of fine tuning and some trimming…like most new plays.
The success of the play can be attributed to its script and direction but “Scary Mary…” has a great team of collaborators. The play includes some clever puppetry from Ben Burris and Zane Exactly and inventive costumes by Fantasia Oslund and Sydney Tucker. Director Eddie DeHais has also designed a terrific set featuring deliberately skewed shelving to indicate we’re in a Fantasy Land Library World. Emily Leong’s lighting design and the sound design by Erin Bednarz and D.R. Amromin are vital components of the whole. And contributing much to the creativity of the production is the movement/choreography work by the director with the aid of Alyza DelPan-Monley and Ryan Higgins. There are some uniquely choreographed dance and fight scenes that add so much creativity to a show that’s already bursting with great ideas and cleverly thought out executions of those ideas. It’s a tightly knit and very artistic ensemble of artists.
The cast is strong, too with fine work from Corinne Magin as Mary, Jenn Ruzumna as The Librarian and Kiki Abba as the best friend Nell. They’re all strong female characters played by a trio of strong female actors. Carter Rodriquez is an adorable cat (played by Carter as well as a very charming puppet he manipulates) and the Librarian character is backed by two very funny henchman played by Cody Smith and Jordan Mueller. And, one of the strongest elements in this show is the superb ensemble of 5 actors who portray all the various Nightmares: Kai Curtis, Emily Pike, Kelly Johnson, Sarah Winsor, and Raymond Williams are just great playing all the various monsters and demons utilizing dance, mime, and puppetry skills to create so many different characters. There are a huge asset to this show.
“Scary Mary and the Nightmares Nine” is one of the best shows done by Annex in recent memory. It’s highly recommended for all audiences seeking out clever imaginative theater. It’s proof you can do creative stylish theater on a budget.