By Dale King
Reservoir Dolls, Outré Theatre Company’s live stage performance inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film, Reservoir Dogs, casts female actors in the roles portrayed in the movie by men. While the concept of imagining how women would act in similar ultra-violent situations is intriguing, the show – playing at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center through Sunday — is more a speculative lesson in gender behavior than a vehicle for entertainment.
Still, it appears playwright Erika Soerensen’s redraft of Tarantino’s original screenplay has succeeded in making the point that women can be as violent, vulgar and nasty as men.
Outré, in its third show this season at Pompano, goes all out to match and, perhaps, even outdo, the extremely bloody violence, rancorous distrust, overarching foul-mouthed vulgarity and neurotic misconduct in the original film. Vulgarity that could make Richard Pryor wince is pretty much wall-to-wall in this show set in a warehouse in the dumpy section of some big city.
Those planning to attend should be advised of the full-page warning in the program stating this show is for mature audiences only, and it includes cautions about “explicit language, sexual themes, pancakes, matches, ’70s music, gas station hot dogs, fake blood, prop cigarettes, more fake blood and sunglasses,” among other things.
At some point, one should ponder whether this play is truly a serious one-to-one comparison of sexual role modeling or some light-hearted jesting. Audiences seem to side with the women.
For the show’s East Coast premiere, Outré has tapped eight young women – and one poor, tortured guy. All actors are exceptional. Many honed their abilities in the theatre arts program at Florida Atlantic University or on the tough stages of other regional companies.
In Dolls, an underworld boss, Jo Cabot (Rita Joe, first-rate as one mean mother), gathers seven lady criminals for a diamond heist. Both she and they expect the job to be a simple robbery with a lucrative payout.
But when the theft goes seriously wrong, and the women become convinced there’s a police informant in their midst, suspicions and tempers run amuck, and longtime relationships, even friendships, become frayed.
To keep identities secret, Jo designates each person by a color, causing at least one character, Ms. Pink (Nicole “Nikki” Dikun) to object to the obviously sexist appellation. Loud and tough Jo makes it clear that Pink will be Pink. (Both Outré and Tarantino lifted this color-naming device from another harsh, tough-guy film, 1974’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.)
After having breakfast at a diner, where one of them refuses to leave a tip, the gals set out to do their dastardly deed. But the heist – which takes place off stage – goes horribly awry. Ms. White (Elizabeth Price) returns to the warehouse with a gravely wounded Ms. Orange (Bridget Parente). Nice Gal Edie (Daryl Patrice) comes back as well to report that some were killed, and Jo’s whereabouts are unknown.
What follows is a compilation of anger without management; distrust, mistrust and no trust; painful screams and screaming pain. Finally, Jo returns, revved and screeching that someone in the garage is a police snitch. Guns are drawn, shots are fired, the stage lights go dark and one more shot is heard.
In a program note, Director Shannon Ouellette says Reservoir Dolls “lays bare our society’s attitudes toward strong women, and toward this passive misogyny which often treats women as if they’re just fragile playthings, rather than individuals with their own demons and violent natures.”
The ladies in this play are no slouches, and their ability to act out the moods and attitudes of so-called “strong women” is incredible. But that’s what actors do – whether male or female. And these women happen to be very, very good at it. If ending “passive misogyny” is the goal, this show isn’t the way to do it.
But credit is due to all the performers for their obvious acting abilities. Rita Joe’s portrayal of gang leader Jo Cabot is awesome. Rita comes to Outré with a stellar résumé and tons of stage experience.
Ditto for Elizabeth Price, who excelled in August: Osage County at FAU and Reborning, a goosebump-raising performance that earned her a Carbonell nomination. She has a well-heeled capacity for delivering roles.
Samantha Kaufman also appeared in many shows while an MFA student at FAU. She has since had professional circus training and is in charge of fight choreography – a skill that’s subtle, but well defined.
Another FAU alum, Joey de la Rua, portrays the hapless cop tortured by gang members. He’s been in all three Outré shows at Pompano, but is probably best remembered for portraying Sigmund Freud last year in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at FAU.
Parente does a masterful job on stage as the gravely injured Ms. Orange. Connie Pezet as Ms. Blue and Krystal Millie Valdes as Ms. Brown are good while they last — which isn’t long.
Patrice delivers a pivotal surprise in this show, so watch for it. She also has diverse stage experience, appearing just this season in 1984 with Outré, Dreamgirls at Broward Stage and An Octoroon at Area Stage.
Outré Theatre’s production of Reservoir Dolls concludes with shows today, Saturday and Sunday at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center, 50 Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach. Tickets are $39 adults, $19 students and industry and are available at www.ccpompano.org or by calling (954) 545-7800.