Take six adults and a geriatric golden retriever named Athena, and you’ve got the makings of enigmatic theatre company’s new production, Athena, by local playwright Lucia Del Vecchio. Described as offbeat and triumphant, the play’s world premiere is part of the North Carolina Stage Company’s Catalyst Series.
Del Vecchio received her master of fine arts in playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, and her works have been produced or had staged readings in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and New York.
One hopes that superb acting and expert directing will make something memorable of a script that is neither offbeat nor triumphant, and demands special effects that can’t reasonably be expected to work in the NCSC black box space. Perhaps extensive use of video projection will suggest the climactic house-wrecking windstorm, but it will be a stretch.
More substantively, the one-act play is comprised of bitter banter between unhappy characters, one of whom suffers from severe short-term memory loss due to a freak accident. One couple owns the dying dog and are about to attempt a baby, another pair are enjoying their first night away from a newborn and the third have been set up by a matchmaking friend.
Given the central role of a canine—not just any canine, but a retriever – a comparison to NCSC’s production of Chesapeake is unavoidable. But whereas the Chesapeake Bay retriever in the latter was no less a dramatic and thematic device, the device was used to thread together a tale of high conflict and deep emotion. Unfortunately, the Athena script is simply catty. Viewed another way, you might say that it circles three times, sighs and lies down.
On a more positive note, the play is being directed by Michael MacCauley, a talented member of Asheville’s theater community in addition to being enigmatic’s artistic director. He has recently directed Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at Asheville Community Theatre, composed the score for Gilgamesh for Black Swan Theater and will be seen on stage at Flat Rock Playhouse this fall. The show is being produced by Chall Gray and stars some of Asheville’s best-known actors, including Jonathan Frappier ( It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, NCSC), Stephanie Hickling (The Mystery Plays, ACT) and David Hopes (too many appearances to mention). If talented actors are able to infuse their characters with sufficient edginess and magic, their interaction might drag Athena out of its authorial doghouse.
Now in its fourth year, the Catalyst Series features performances from local, grassroots theater companies. NC Stage collaborates with the indie companies to expand its own programming while providing resources for innovative theater and has repeatedly delivered the goods. Watch for the Xpress review on our A&E blog on Aug. 16 (click here to read review).
The enigmatic theatre company’s production of Athena takes place at North Carolina Stage Company from Tuesday, Aug. 14, through Sunday, Aug. 19. 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. $15/$12. 350-9090. www.ncstage.org