Review: “Stegosaurus (or) Three Cheers for Climate Change” at PianoFight (****)

by Victor Cordell
Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)  

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

How would you spend your time when the world as we know it is coming to an end? Playwright Andrew Saito takes a stab at it with the world premiere of “Stegosaurus (or) Three Cheers for Climate Change.” It is a raucous, entertaining presentation that is timely and provocative, yet it is difficult to fully assess and might benefit from some tinkering.

Sach (a man) and Claudey (a woman) are a couple who are survivors in a terminally dystopic environment. The effects of climate change are in full force. Electricity, public water supply, and groceries are no longer available. Dust accumulates and skin itches. In many ways, it’s back to the stone age, but with most of the trappings and physical shells of modern life still around. But life must go on. As a testament to how a dream can live on even when the dream’s “use by” date has passed, Sach and Claudy still aspire to own a Jacuzzi, despite the incessant heat and absence of water.

So how do Sach and Claudey pass the time? He practices taxidermy, and they’re holding a garage sale. An occasional buyer comes along, and they barter useless items for useless returns. Their big break comes when Sach shoots down four eagles. He disembodies them for stuffing, and a customer offers a passel of cash for the meat. Given that the couple lack food sources, this doesn’t seem to be the wisest decision. Another occurs when a body from an airplane falling through a crack in the couple’s roof. One might wonder why planes are flying, but we can assume that failing conditions are different from one locale to another.

Other activities and discussion topics arise between the two central characters. Should Claudey quit her job? Should Sach fix the plumbing or the crack in the roof? What should they do with the body that fell through the roof? The result is a host of contradictions, largely reflecting the push and pull of the fact that doom is upon them and the desire to deny the facts and carry on as normal.

The tone of the play may be characterized as post-absurdist farce. Like other works of similar ilk, the viewer is confronted with many stimuli, and it’s difficult to understand what the playwright’s intentions are and whether some cues and set pieces are simply random inclusions embraced for the sake of humor.

It is clear that the title Stegosaurus was consciously selected as dinosaurs dying off is a corollary to the seeming fate of humanity. But what about the crack in the roof? Does it represent the earth cracking as it desiccates? Does the man falling through the roof represent the figurative sky falling? As the bald eagle is the American national bird, is the downing of the eagles a comment on America’s failure, or was there a sale on toy eagles at the store when the play was being scripted?

Whatever the deeper meaning, what we have here is a harshly funny play in which much but not all of the humor works. The play is brief, and a number of topics are thrown in without explication, so their relevance is not always clear.

As for the production, Director Rem Myers extracts value from limited resources. The staging is suited to a garage sale with an accumulation of clutter from yesteryear flanking the set. The acting is pure tour-de-force. As Claudey, Sango Tajima is frenetically charming throughout. She commands the stage with bold confidence and great skill — dancing and diving with abandon. Paul Rodrigues as Sach matches her energy with equal enthusiasm. He, too, excels at depicting the delirium of his character. Fitting with the scorched earth of the setting, the two leads become palpably covered with sweat as their fever pitch is relentless. The two supporting players, Donald Currie and Sabrina Wenske, are also effective in small roles.

Altogether, playwright Saito has something going with a great theme and some interesting insights. It would benefit from more clarity and tightening.

“Stegosaurus (or) Three Cheers for Climate Change” plays at PianoFight hrough April 16, 2016. For further information, click here.

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“Stegosaurus (or) Three Cheers for Climate Change” by Andrew Saito, presented by Faultline Theatre.  Director: Rem Myers.  Scenic Design: Sarah Phykitt.  Lighting Design: Maxx Kruzunski.  Sound Design: Evan Wardell.  Costume Design: Wes Crain.  Props Design: Brittany White.  Clown Work: Sabrina Weske.  Graphic Design: Nick Flory.

Cast:

Sach: Paul Rodrigues.  Claudey: Sango Tajima.  Man: Donald Currie.  Customers: Sabrina Wenske.

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