I really like the idea of DRAGON PLAY. Some of the symbolism is profound; some of the dialogue snappy. At times the script is airy, but not for long. Sometimes it goes from whimsical to dark. Parts of it are beautiful. And sometimes it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It’s the kind of play Know Theatre of Cincinnati likes to produce and its core audience base will probably love it.
In a rustic, wooden kitchen, Torie Wiggins is featured as “Woman,” and we learn fairly quickly she’s dissatisfied with her life and maybe her husband, played by Paul Strickland. Claron Hayden (“Dragon”) shows up, a remnant from the woman’s past, and the script implies relational intrigue is upon us. On the other side of the stage, we meet “Dragon Girl” played by NKU student Kearston Hawkins-Johnson and “Boy” (CCM student Josh Reiter). Their story feels more poetic; youthfully romantic.
It’s not long, though, before we realize that there are parallels in their narratives; uncomfortable similarities that lead to revelations and conclusions that are intended to be layered with meaning.
Tamara Winters directs. Andrew Hungerford designed the set and lighting and he is well known for his talent in this area. Costumes are by Noelle Johnston, with sound and projections by Doug Borntrager. They’ve turned the usual seating area sideways, allowing for a wider set. Plus, the audience is closer to the stage.
This is most effective when in the middle of the play, storyteller-turned-actor Paul Strickland delivers the best monologue in the show. His authenticity as a performer, matched with his undeniable charisma and down-to-earth charm, is by the best thing about this production. As he tells his own experience meeting, dating, and marrying his wife, he is engaging, believable, and interesting. Truth is, when he’s not on the stage, the show suffers from his absence. When he returns, the energy returns.
If you’re a fan of unusual storytelling and Know Theatre’s productions, this will likely be another one you tell your friends about.
DRAGON PLAY runs through February 18th at Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine. Tickets and more information are available here.
Photo credit: Daniel R. Winters Photography