Pure theatrical gold. Everything about this production is ready to move into the major leagues. Hopefully it will find a new home AS IS in an open run at a small off-Broadway theatre after its brief stay at 64E4 UNDERGROUND as part of FringeNYC.
This powerful, engaging, surprising and sometimes violent two character play by Jonathan A. Goldberg is based on the true life story of George Edward ‘Rube’ Waddell a prized southpaw pitcher. He led the major leagues in strikeouts for six consecutive years. Drink was his downfall causing Sporting News to nickname him Sousepaw.
As the play begins he is asleep or perhaps passed out in a seedy hotel in Elmendorf Texas, 1913 – a year before he died at the age of 37 – wearing a union suit with a rear drop seat – coughing and confused when there is a knock on the door.
The set by April Bartlett sets the mood immediately. Enter “The Reptile Girl” (Christina Pumariega) with a small suitcase. What ensues is a magnificent character study of these two lost souls in one act that is a little more than one hour long.
He is awkward and naïve. Charming and simple. She is damaged. Sexy and kinky. She works in a circus where they met. She has come to him to help keep him sober as he prepares for his second chance in life – a new contract with a new team – as he had been fired for his drinking.
But not before a little sexual role playing with his hired escort. Unfortunately he has not enough money to pay her. Why does she stay? What will happen to these two people will amaze you and you will never forget them.
Nor will you forget these two excellent actors. James B. Kennedy portrays Rube with confidence and shyness. It is an extremely nuanced performance that is a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s also uncanny that he resembles the real Rube Waddell. This part seems to have been tailor made for him. He’s a winner. A charmer. A troubled, desperate man.
Christina Pumariega is his match. We slowly learn her back story and root for her. And him. Caring for these two people beaten down by life looking for something better and attempting to help each other make it. They banter back and forth comically and bitter sweetly. It’s amazing how much we care for them. It’s beautifully written. Tennessee Williams came to mind.
Costume design by Deanna R Frieman, Lighting Design by Dan Henry and Fight Sequences (they do not hold back) by Rod Kinter are skillful under the astute direction of Courtney Ulrich making SOUSEPAW the major event of FringeNYC 2015. It’s unequivocally wonderful.
Photos: Hunter Canning
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