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(l to r) Christy Arington, Dan Krall, Rebecca Wolfe, Scott OKen, Chris Hainsworth and Topher Leon.
When a theater company boasts of their “trashy and stupid‚” aesthetic, you really have no idea what you’re in for. Which makes sense, given Factory’s mission of an “unexpected, unapologetic theatrical experience.”
I recently reviewed FIGHT CITY and did my best to enter CAPTAIN STEVE with new eyes. However, I left with a similar furrow in my brow. Upon entrance, I was charmed! The stage was set with an old school TV and cart, playing kid’s shows from the 70s and 80s. This was interspersed with “Captain Steve’s Caring Kingdom” clips. Its DIY aesthetic mixed with clever quips and a tongue in cheek spin on sugary kid’s shows. The set was homemade and colorful. I was interested in the potential mixing media on stage and a clever take on kid’s shows. Then CAPTAIN STEVE began.
Enter OK Bear, played by Scott OKen, a bumbling, enthusiastic protagonist and Beaky, his acerbic counterpart, played by Chris Hainsworth. Then, a trio of villainous cats, then, an elephant, a turtle, a sloth, a llama, a stork and a plethora of animals. I have hope — this looks cute.
But things don’t work out so smoothly as the story progresses. Without describing the plot in its entirety, CAPTAIN STEVE is a tale of hope and determination, sprinkled with music and off-color humor. The ending is questionable; after Captain Steve’s funeral, Turv, the turtle declares that he’s going to rape everyone. OKBear and Beaky take matters into their own hands. If we’re talking art in the “trashy and stupid” category, it absolutely did its job.
Objectively, the show needed a dramaturg. I know I say that all the time, but there are numerous original works that have frayed story elements. Many of the characters and plot lines were incomplete or merely touched upon. A number of characters made an appearance once or twice, never to be seen or heard again. The principal storyline of CAPTAIN STEVE unearths itself in bursts; in-between is banter and other plot lines and music and fist fights and bus crashes. Regardless. CAPTAIN STEVE gets distracted. The ending moments feel like a tacked on solution to hurriedly end the show. Which, considering the ending, is grossly insensitive. Even if this play had the help of a dramaturg, it’d still be trashy and stupid, but at least it might make sense.