Kelsey holds a BFA in Theatre Studies and a BS in Cinema/Media Studies from the U of I in Champaign-Urbana. She's a freelance dramaturg, most recently working with Circle Theatre's Venus in Fur. Kelsey believes in theater's ability to change the world. A mix of wit and lit.
Pictured (l-r): Edward Mawere, Annie Munch, and Will Allan. Photo by Charles Osgood.
By Kelsey McGrath
I have to admit, I was incredibly skeptical when asked to review a show entitled THE ANTELOPE PARTY, whose principle iconography includes the “My Little Pony” toys in Trump-era ball caps. It’s a jarring clash of two worlds with polar values, but Theatre Wit’s THE ANTELOPE PARTY tells a story a la the dumpster fire of 2017 in hilarious and relatable terms. The play examines normalization and is critical of community, but with sugar on top.
While our Bronies have a safe space in Bony Ben’s (Edward Mawere) apartment. This sacred space becomes jeopardized with the rise of the neighborhood watch. Pegasister Maggie’s (Anu Bhatt) holds close ties with these folks and eventually begins recruiting for their side. Brony Shawn (Will Allan) takes the reigns of her cause when they become romantically involved. This leaves Pegasister Rachel (Annie Munch) no choice when the pressure to choose the “protection” of the Antelope Party costs her her friendships. Onlooker Jean (Mary Winn Heider) falls victim to the chaos when all she wanted was a place to belong. The entire ensemble brings this play world to life with a love and vivacity that only true Bronies could rally.
The magic in this show isn’t solely found in the My Little Ponies but in its ability to so easily welcome the audience into such a foreign subculture. While the values of this culture are child-like and compassionate, watching grown adults dress up and engage in this type of play can be jarring. But playwright Eric John Meyer gives life and breath and love to all of these oddly human misfits; they’re relatable in their common quest to find their tribe. Simultaneously, we’re compelled to consider the consequences of a tribe “going wrong.” In conversation with our time, it offers insight into the humanization and justification of the “bad guys.”
“Certain people aren’t as bad as they seem once you get to know them.”
And while this extended compassion aligns with the Brony ideology, it also asks the question of where the line of our empathy must be drawn. Maggie urges her fellow Bronies to “See the magic in every pony,” or Antelope, but her friends have difficulties swallowing this consideration after the rise of their authoritarian regime.
THE ANTELOPE PARTY is a sensory overload, but in a way that heightens the audience’s immersion. From the fake grass on the theater floor, to Ben’s apartment littered with My Little Pony memorabilia, to the DIY cosplay costumes our Bronies adorn. Everything is specific and unfamiliar and maintains a quality of believability. We begin to gain an understanding of how passionate the Brony love and Brony world are. Congrats to the entire production team for creating this comfortable, well-loved space, as well as the outside world that’s trying to invade.
Directed by Theatre’s Wit’s Artistic Director, Jeremy Wechsler THE ANTELOPE PARTY is a thought-provoking romp that’s not to be missed.
THE ANTELOPE PARTY runs through February 24th. For more information visit theaterwit.org.