Review: ‘Abominable’ by Katie May, World Premiere at Playground Festival (*****)

by Barry David Horwitz

Travel to Tibet and Beyond

At the opening of Katie May’s new play “Abominable, or The Misappropriation of Beverly Onion by Forces Beyond Her Control,” two white suited dandies are debating the merits of planning versus surprise. They turn out to be the gods Fate (a stylish Nican Robinson) and Luck (a feisty Amy Resnick). Fate and Luck are locked in the ages old debate between expectations and chance. These two witty overseeing forces decide to settle their eternal conflict by demonstrating their powers over one Beverly Onion (the delightful Lisa Morse), a modest mortician’s assistant, who is busily engaged in beautifying cadavers in the basement of the Hortaman Funeral Parlor. They bet on the outcome, no less.

Playwright May immediately breaks down the wall between characters and audience, and inflames our imaginations, engaging us on many layers at once. She peels the onion and ups the ante. Luck keeps asking, “Why is this day different from all other days?” And the play unrolls to show us why each day is, indeed, new and unpredictable.

“Abominable” reveals Beverly’s attempts to get ordinary. She engages in speed-dating with hilarious results, aided by the ubiquitous and crafty Chad Deverman, who perfectly embodies many funny potential dates. He is partnered by Gwen Loeb who participates in the dating madness and other fabulous shticks. Beverly runs into both repeatedly — at a Star Wars convention, at a biology/genetics conference, and at various hook-ups and funerals. Their precise and intimate acting style places a whirligig of characters before our eyes, always in super-sharp satirical focus. Director Chloe Bronzan makes them delicious and hypnotic to watch.

May’s play shows us how Beverly Onion has something way down deep inside her that keeps her moving towards a unique goal. She dreams of the Abominable Snowman (Steven Westdahl) , the mythical snowy beast who lives in the Himalayas. She moves Yeti-wards, towards the Snowman, who lurks behind a blue screen. The monster roams and moans, wordlessly, in a distant Asian snowscape. Articulate Beverly galsplains how mere conforming or mere dreaming will not be enough to alleviate her profound and personal loneliness.

Beverly’s alone-ness gives way to the force of her character and her nature. Suddenly, Beverly is breaking with both Faith and Luck, and pursuing her own ascent. It is wonderful to witness her exciting and intimate transformation. File this one under surreal flights of fantasy and visits to Other Worlds. And we want to go with her, all the way to Tibet, on the wings of Katie May’s forthright and seductive lingo.

What we have here is Beverly’s quest for the Land of Oz. Beverly is lonely, but self-sufficient, and she has wit and charm and a secret imaginary life.

Finally, the “Forces Beyond Her Control” cannot succeed with “The Misappropriation of Beverly Onion.” First, we have to experience sheer joy and laughter and innumerable plot twists and multiple never-endings. We never know what the last layer will look like. Neither does Beverly Onion. I heartily recommend hopping on Katie May’s profound, mysterious, and brilliantly comic journey. Get right on over to the Himalayas—I mean to Thick House at the foot of Portrero Hill—to start that quest. We will be hearing Katy May’s voice again, with pleasure.

“Abominable, or The Misappropriation of Beverly Onion by Forces Beyond Her Control” by Katie May plays at Thick House through July 9, 2016. For further information, click here


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



Director: Chloe Bronzan. Dramaturg: Jim Kleinmann. Lighting Designer: Kate Boyd. Sound Designer: Josh Senick. Costume Designer: Jocelyn Leiser Herndon. Casting Consultant: Annie Stuart. Properties Artisan: Katie May. Production Manager: Marcus Marotto. Stage Manager: Louel Senores.

Cast: Fate: Nican Robinson. Luck: Amy Resnick. Beverly Onion: Lisa Morse. Mr. Hortaman, Dean, & Others: Chad Deverman. Mrs. Hortaman, Doris, & Others: Gwen Loeb. Abominable Snowman: Steven Westdahl.

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