“Field Guide”

Yale Repertory Theatre


“Field Guide,” the somewhat crazy and adventurous new work by the theatre company, Rude Mechs, is currently being presented at Yale Repertory Theatre in a world premiere production.  Taking its inspiration from Dostoevsky’s final novel, “The Brothers Karamazov,” “Field Guide” manages to combine elements of stand-up comedy, theatre of the absurd, dance theatre, and several other theatrical genres into one uniquely comical show.  Featuring a cast of six terrific actors, all part of Rude Mechs and all instrumental in the creation of this show, “Field Guide” is decidedly strange, but enough of it is wild and singularly amusing to offer an enjoyable and spiky evening of theatre.  In a free-flowing, 90 minute show, “Field Guide” seems to throw just about everything but the kitchen sink onto the Yale Repertory stage in its desire to give the audience a good time and it is mostly successful in doing just that.

Rude Mechs is a theatre company from Austin, Texas that specializes in molding bold new works, which are created by a 28 member company and sometimes defy an easy description.  Within the opening moments of “Field Guide,” the hilarious and talented Hannah Kenah appears at the microphone, in front of the red show curtain, and proceeds to deliver a startlingly funny stand-up comedy act.  Without giving too much away, “Field Guide” certainly offers an eclectic collection of theatrical concepts and devices that manages to keep an audience member on their toes from beginning to end.  Indeed, throughout the show, one is unsure of exactly what will happen next.

As mentioned, “Field Guide” takes its inspiration from Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamozov.”  This inspiration manages to encompass everything from a person dressed up as a bear, doing a comedy act, to the prominent subject of patricide.  Alongside this is the lovely and elegant Mari Akita, as the character of Alyosha, dressed almost like a Geisha, doing an eloquent dance sequence.  Also featured in the show is the imposing Lowell Bartholomee, as the father, Fyodor, who supplies his own brand of raucous humor.  Funny, as well, is the handsome Thomas Graves (playing the character of Ivan), who delivers a lengthy poem through a picture frame, while sitting in a hot tub.

If all of this sounds bizarre, to say the least, that seems to be the intention of what Rude Mechs wants to accomplish.  By throwing so many disparate theatrical elements at the audience, “Field Guide” manages to upend any expectations of what a more “traditional” play might offer.  That this show is also extremely entertaining while doing all this is a tribute to not only those who fashioned the play (with the text credited to Hannah Kenah), but also to the skilled director, Shawn Sides, who certainly has a wild imagination and fills the stage with quite a collection of wacky and interesting scenes.

The cast also includes the versatile and authoritative Lana Lesley, who plays the prominent male character of Dmitri.  Rounding out the company is the somewhat forlorn Robert S. Fisher, as Smerdyakov, who still manages to get his share of laughs.  The director works excellently with his actors, as well as with his fine design team.  Eric Dyer has supplied the colorful scenic design (which includes some of the set pieces moving around the stage by themselves during a couple scenes) and the precise costumes have been designed by Sarah Woodham.  Lighting designer Brian H. Scott works wonders throughout and the brilliant sound design is by Robert S. Fisher.

“Field Guide” is definitely not a show for all tastes.  Some of the visions that Rude Mechs have come up with are decidedly odd and the final image in the play (not to be revealed here) manages to be the cherry on top of a very bizarre cake.  Still, this theatre company can be refreshingly off-beat and there is a good deal of humor from beginning to end.  And, while the inspiration of “The Brothers Karamazov” is definitely different than what one might immediately expect, more often than not, “Field Guide” succeeds in what it is trying to do.  Indeed, those in for a taste of something off the beaten track would do well to make it to Yale Repertory Theatre for a highly unusual theatrical experience.

“Field Guide” continues performances at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT through February 17, 2018.  For tickets, please visit www.yalerep.org or call the box office at 203-432-1234.

Photo: (L-R): Lowell Bartholomee, Hannah Kenah, Mari Akita, Robert S. Fisher, and Thomas Graves

Photo by Joan Marcus

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