One of the best reviews for any show I’ve been involved in, and coming from Dan Solomon, who is no easy sell. You should read the whole thing, where Dan gets some stuff off his chest while praising our little pirate brothel show. But here’s some of the gold:
The basic premise is that Molly Forge (Chaille Stidham), the most popular prostitute at Connie’s Brothel, has come down with a sexually-acquired disease (“a sad”) called “St. Matilda’s Malady”. The chain of events that this inspires sends a pirate queen, a dashing captain, a juggling prostitute, an ornery madame, and a charming naive named Sampson all crashing through the doors of the brothel, as the sad spreads and the characters’ complicated relationships reveal themselves. The plot’s surprisingly complex, for a 25-minute piece, but it’s not really the point: The point is the interaction between the wordplay and the cast.
The highlight of the show is Talleri McRae as Tammy, the least popular prostitute at the brothel, who enjoys the most stage time and runs around like a screwball comedienne, hiding characters and taking on assumed identities. McRae takes a thankless role (her character’s primary distinction is how unappealing men find her) and sets a tone that makes St. Matilda irrepressibly fun, all high energy and grounded goofiness that only makes the sincere emotional connections that the characters seek all the more charming.
And this is something else that could prove educational to theatermakers who’ve confused making art with staidness: It’s easier to connect with characters we like. It’s impossible to come to a nuanced understanding of what drives Jenn Hartmann‘s Dirty Vicky the Pirate Queen, but since we’re seeing something compelling every time she’s on stage, we want her to succeed. While no one would confuse St. Matilda’s Malady with a serious, heavy piece of theater, it accomplishes something that a lot of the performances that aim to be exactly that fail to do: It makes us care, even briefly, about what’s happening on stage.
We love fun here at Austinist. (You should see our toy collection.) We’re just not generally fond of seeing “fun” used as a synonym for “lazy”. And we’re lucky to have shows like St. Matilda’s Malady to remind us that there’s a difference.