With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy/Dramatic Criticism, Alyssa Dyksterhouse has over 20 years of professional theater experience. She recently returned from the living in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote about arts and culture for Seattle Weekly and Seattle Gay Scene.
Courtney Mack and cast. Photo by Evan Hanover.
Review: TONYA AND NANCY: A ROCK OPERA at Underscore Theatre Company
By Alyssa Dyksterhouse
I remember when a certain figure skater whined “why me” when knocked in the knee but I did not closely follow the ensuing circus and seldom think about it; however, Underscore Theatre Company’s TONYA AND NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA inspires me to spend an evening entrenched in Google or viewing the documentary—THE PRICE OF GOLD.
Lest you are unaware of said historical events, in 1994, Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan was hit in the leg by a man hired via the husband of a fellow figure skater Tonya Harding. Soon everyone learned those sparkling costumes reflected a realm requiring “skate moms”, body guards, a ruthless quest for “the gold” and a sex tape. Yes, a sex tape.
Elizabeth Searle (Book and Lyrics) and Michael Teoli (Music) comedically convey this disgrace which, had it not been based on actual actions, I would dismiss as implausible. In addressing the complexity of #SkateGate they confirm that—despite contempt creating conjecture—the only two people who know what happened are those two women.
Director/Choreographer Jon Martinez lands a triple axel while pushing the edge of straight-up silliness. He skates the line between drama and comedy. His energetically-executed choreography oozes elements evocative of George M Cohen, Twyla Tharp, and many others.
Unfortunately, like their characters, Amanda Horvath (Tonya) and Courtney Mack (Nancy) foible and fall. While both earn high marks for emotional intensity, from the beginning number “Three and a Half Minutes” I struggled in discerning what they were singing and, sometimes, saying. However, the ensemble earned an overall perfect score. Caleb Baze (Fan Reporter) prods the plot along in a device reminiscent of Che in EVITA. Veronica Garza dumbfounds as she depicts both the moms gliding with ease from vulgar drunk to perfection-demanding middle-class momster. Combining humor and brashness Vasily Deris (Shawn Eckhardt) gets the gold in “Tonya’s New Body Guard” proving he is a triple threat.
The design elements illustrate that when dealing with a—presumably—small budget less is more. Jimmy Jagos simple yet versatile set transports the audience from rink to backstage with comfort while providing a neutral canvas for Maya Fein’s dramatic lighting design which deserves a double exclamation point.
In the past twenty-two years, we have witnessed a multitude of scandals and most are comprised of the same ingredients. TONYA AND NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA reminds me that I have a “nemesis” or someone/thing I perceive as an obstacle. I do not injure them but—if I tell the truth—sometimes I want to whack them in the knee. Strangely this off-beat show normalizes the darker parts of my humanity.
Despite a few stumbles, this show earns a silver medal.
TONYA AND NANCY: A ROCK OPERA runs thu December 30th at Theatre Wit. For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.theaterwit.org