Very little excites me more than seeing a theatre company produce a show that relies heavily on just two to four characters, tops. This creates an exciting sense of urgency between the actors and a wonderful relationship with the audience right from the time the lights dim. The audience cannot help but root the actors on. It is no small feat, keeping an entire audience engaged for a full 90 minutes, with only one/two scene partners! I love seeing that challenge unfold onstage and it never fails, I always wish I would have been able to see the rehearsal process take shape! Small casts usually bond well, which definitely seems to be the case here, and there always tends to be a bit of onstage competition, which is fun to see in relation to the script and character dynamic. Sidewinders has a cast of four but the show is centered around two main characters, Dakota (Katya Landau) and Bailey (Jessica Severance), and their existential search for their exact location in a barren land as well as their sexual identity. The show is fast paced, clever and hysterically poignant.
We meet these characters as they are arguing over how to turn around a broken down train, in order to get it moving back the way they came so they can return back home. Dakota is hell bent on getting out of wherever they have ended up, yet Bailey is focused on identifying their gender and therefore, their true identity. How is one supposed to _beep!_if one does not know what one is working with? A _beep!_or a_click!_? The text does an excellent job of leaving out any gender specific labels or linguistic identifiers so we as audience members are just as in the dark as the characters are (or just as in the light). It is very exciting that this show is being produced as we are faced with these issues daily, and more so now than ever before. Does one need to identify oneself based only on our genitalia? Is our sexual identity really that cut and dry? Are we really only “allowed” to be this or that, and that’s it? Who’s to say? What if we feel more than that? These questions and the theatrical framing of these topics are phenomenal.
The staging of this show is one of its strongest assets. Joshua Jon has brilliantly created an incredibly physical show, full of energy and always visually engaging. The actors inhabit the entire playing space, leaving no corner unused but always with intent. The clown acts and break out performances throughout the show are probably my favorite part of the entire performance.
Clowning is not a simple task, it takes real commitment and a fully engaged physique, but each character makes it seem like their second nature. This alone was worthy of uproarious applause. Truthfully I found myself tearing up more than once. Jon has blended incredibly touching moments as well as laugh out loud comedy that will sneak up on you.
Clocking in at around 90 minutes without an intermission, the show keeps you entertained the whole time and will absolutely leave you with questions of your own and things to discuss. Please take our word for it, go see this show (bring a friend!), support your local LGBTQ theatre company and then go out to dinner or drinks so you can talk about what this show brought up for you. I promise that it will be one of the most important conversations you will have this year.
By Chelsea Madsen