Written and directed by Curious Theatre Branch co-founder Beau O’Reilly, “The Turtle at Play” takes place in an urban milieu equal parts David Lynch and Hal Hartley. The action shuttles between the East End burlesque club, where aspiring comics perform bad imitations of Marlon Brando channeling Gertrude Stein, the apartment of the bohemian couple Hope and Plankton and the Turtle whose feeding habits Plankton studies obsessively, and the street, dominated by the menacing Mollusk and his young partners in crime. O’Reilly has created an imaginative world, at once identical to and a few degrees askew from our own. Watching him set it up is fascinating, and the mood of the play, by turns aggressively hilarious and melancholy, recalls the somber clowning of Keaton, Welles, and Beckett. But while the loose, sketch-based construction of the first act allows maximum room for these characters to display their quirks, the second act, more faithful to the demands of conventional narrative, at times grinds to a halt. The minimal staging of the play highlights both the imaginative resources and the temptation to talkiness in O’Reilly’s script. The cast on the whole deserves credit (especially Kat McJimsey’s Hope and Vernon Tonges’s Chester) for energetically realizing O’Reilly’s lineup of grotesques. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.