Copious Love Suggests:
The Clockwork Professor
Written by Maggie Lee
Directed by Amy Poisson
at Theater Off Jackson
Did you know that Seattle, WA is considered by many to be the Steampunk capital of the world? I learned this recently and it makes me proud. I think it has something to do with our ominous grey skies. Anyway, if you have any interest in this genre at all, Pork Filled Productions’ new show, The Clockwork Professor by local Playwright Maggie Lee will make you squeal with joy. Get to the International district, visit Theatre off Jackson and prepare yourself for a night filled with science jokes, slow motion fight choreography and a pair of robot lackeys that would make Neil Gaiman squirm in his overcoat.
The set is the first aspect of this production that really impressed me; its design, by Robin Macartney, is nearly perfect. The Professor’s workspace is unkempt and cluttered, just like his mind, while the rest of the space is free to become several different locations using creative lighting, by David Baldwin, and well placed props. There are few things I love more than a well lit and utilized stage.
Naturally, as a science fiction enthusiast and costume geek, Steampunk fashion speaks to me. There is something about the mix up of layers and patterns, precise accessories, hardware and lace, ruffles and leather that just get my gears turning. It is both classy and badass. Sometimes, it can look obtrusive, like the focus of the play was to be a costume party on stage; but Samantha Armitage did an incredible job. Each character is diverse, every look is polished yet natural, and every accessory is necessary. I wanted to wear it all!
Of course, this play boasts some terrific actors, not a weak link among them. Standout performances were Brad Walker as Professor Pemberton, a “quiet man of science” who breaks out of his shell to save the girl he loves and everything he holds dear. Walker is a strong performer who carries the weight of his past with intrigue and charisma. Randall Brammer shines as Lawrence Howell, adding natural comedy to each scene. Brammer and Narea Kang (who plays Matilda James, the Professor’s Assistant) have excellent chemistry from the get go, both have a biting wit that is hilarious and comfortable. Matilda’s character arch was, to me, the most interesting twist of the show and the big reveal was satisfying and perfectly timed. I also enjoyed the narration of the Wireless Announcer, played and voiced by Melissa Slaughter. It was a creative way to inform the audience about key details that might otherwise seem unnatural within dialogue and Slaughter has a natural voice for the part. Do you love disturbingly evil robots? I sure do! I love a story that includes henchmen who are devious and cannot be stopped. Karissa Samples as Mr. Jervis and Sascha Streckel as Mr. Sullivan will haunt your dreams. Their automated connection and chemistry gave me shivers that lasted for days.
The script itself is dynamite, telling a massive story in a very concise way. What I loved most about The Clockwork Professor is that there are incredibly tender moments – amidst almost non-stop action – that do not feel forced or misplaced. We understand from the beginning that there are love connections but the action doesn’t stop in order to illustrate what is so obviously there. This is a very intricate balance that is done with brilliance thanks to great direction by Amy Poisson and the strong backbone of a script. I would love nothing more than for this story to have a second installment, this was a wonderful world to get lost in and you are left wanting to explore more of the dimensions that Lee alludes to. I have a feeling New Providence is only the beginning.
I loved every second of this show. I want to thank Pork Filled Productions and everyone involved, for a great night of exciting new theatre. Catch it before it closes this weekend or you will be sorry! BRAVO!