The Coterie Stays Gold
The Coterie Theatre
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, the story of two rivaling gangs in 1965 Oklahoma, is one of my favorite novels, so I had high expectations for the stage adaptation put on at the Coterie Theatre. I was not disappointed with the talented cast's opening night performance. The show began with a loud "Howdy!" from the single guitarist who provided the musical underscore of the entire show, Brodie Rush. (He was phenomenal, by the way, and his music fit perfectly with the performance.)
The story is told by Ponyboy, a fourteen-year-old Greaser, played by Skyy Moore. Moore is a Texas native and The Outsiders is his Kansas City debut. I was very impressed with his narrative skills. He spoke as a real person would when they tell a story, rather than sounding as if he was just reciting one. He had terrific chemistry with the other actors and was pretty much the perfect fit for the character type. My only criticism would be that he became unbelievable in moments when Ponyboy was in extreme distress.
Ponyboy lives with his older brothers, Darry (Jeff Smith) and Soda Pop (Doogin Brown). Brown never ceases to amaze me with his performances – he looks like a completely different person in every production I've seen him in. His character could easily be over complicated, but Brown kept it simple. He demonstrated Soda Pop's love for his family and friends, and everything else just fell in line. I was especially impressed with his heartfelt speech, begging his brothers to stop fighting and be a family. Smith, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. When he was supposed to be angry he just yelled and stomped because those are the kinds of things angry people do; but he didn't seem angry, he just seemed loud. He was playing "anger" rather than actually "being angry". I feel that the main reason he was cast in this role is his physique. Smith is a professional wrestler and has the muscles to go with the job. I would prefer to see him in a less realistic style !
of theatre like his appearance in the Coterie's Sorority House of the Dead last year.
Matthew Leonard plays Two-Bit, another Greaser. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Leonard's, but I was not fond of this character. Two-Bit was a bit deranged and moved like a caricature of a Greaser. As with Smith, I would have preferred a more realistic interpretation of the character. Leonard really shines when it comes to his connections to his fellow performers; as long as he was making eye contact and not walking around, he nailed the performance. It was when he sauntered on or looked at an imaginary passing car that he lost his believability.
The last three Greasers were Johnny, Sandy, and Dallas, played by Brian Gehlein, Meredith Wolfe, and Tosin Morohunfola respectively. Wolfe had a small role but played the part well and had great chemistry with Brown. Gehlein had the tough job of playing a pretty pathetic character: Johnny is terrified for most of the play and in an iron lung for the rest of it. The iron lung really hindered his otherwise fantastic performance because he was standing up in it and it looked so ridiculous that it distracted from the dialogue. It was Morohunfola that stole the show for me though. It was as if he stepped right out of the pages of S.E. Hinton's novel and onto the stage – he had the most honest, realistic, and believable performance. I was to the point of tears when he delivered his final monologue after Johnny's death in the hospital. What an incredible talent!
Because the story was being told by a Greaser, the actors playing members of the other gang, the Socials, didn't get as much stage time. Wilson Vance played Cherry, a sort of double agent for the Greasers, and I enjoyed her performance as the spunky spit-fire. The other Socs, played by Zachary Andrews, Scott Swayze, Laura Suddeth, and Kyle Dyck all sort of blended in together because we, as an audience, aren't given the opportunity to get to know them as individuals; they were all fine actors and played their parts well. Dyck was lucky enough to play another character, Jerry, which was so very different from the Socs that he couldn't help but stand out. Cathy Wood and Hughston Walkinshaw filled out the cast by playing all of the bit parts.
All of the technical aspects of the show were very impressive, especially the use of projections, and the designers and crew should be very proud. Director Jeff Church made some interesting and effective choices with this cast, including having some scenes performed out in the audience (though it was a little chaotic during the rumble: there were so many places to look that I felt like I was always missing something). Overall, this show was a success, and I congratulate all involved (including the AMAZING young comedy troupe that performed a 10 minute spoof of the play following the performance). My original rating was 4.5, but those crazy kids in the post-show entertainment convinced me to bump it up to a 5. Don't miss this show.