A Hand of Talons
Presented by Pork Filled Productions
Written by Maggie Lee
Directed by Amy Poisson
Theatre Off Jackson
April 29th-May 21st
I was excited to see A Hand of Talons ever since I sat down in April to interview playwright Maggie Lee (http://theatricalmustang.podbean.com/e/maggie-lee/.) Her enthusiasm for creating new worlds in which women had power was nothing short of infectious. Throughout the interview, her hands gesticulated wildly as she explained the intricacies of her Steampunk alternate universe.
And great galloping thunderturtles, the production of A Hand of Talons, running through May 21 at Theatre of Jackson does NOT disappoint! The show opened with a period appropriate curtain speech given by the delightfully deadpan Jenn Ruzumna, who plays Bernie Martillo. The lights went down on Brandon Estrella’s meticulous set, which uses every inch of the TOJ space. And then the lights came up on one of the best-produced shows I’ve seen in Seattle.
There’s a post that my friends have been sharing on Facebook, called “Reverse Spy Flick.” The premise is simple: take the template of a traditional James Bond spy movie and make a woman the lead character. With A Hand of Talons, Maggie Lee has reversed, transformed and heightened the traditional action genre. The story focuses on Wilhemina Yao, portrayed deftly by Stephanie Kim-Bryan. Wilhemina starts off with a comedic intensity that is beguiling to watch. Kim-Bryan’s face is incredibly elastic, punctuating Lee’s acrobatic lines with an acerbic wit and playfulness. Even more incredible is her transformation in Act II, where she takes on all the bad-assery of any Bond villain.
The infinitely likable Sean Schroeder, brings both light-heartedness and pathos to the role of Wilhemina’s brother, Anders Yao. Ben Burris shines and adds comedic relief as Lawrence Howell, a friend of Anders who is also besotted with Wilhemina. The elegant Mariko Kita breathes life into the complex character of Delphine Yao and Kenna Kettrick serves as Delphine’s attendant Lin Curtis. Kita battles expertly with Delphine’s struggle to remain poised and powerful while at the same time seeking what is best for her family. Kettrick embodies an unparalleled integrity to her character’s sense of service.
Tim Gagne is Kenzo Yao, the man you love to hate because he’s just so terribly handsome and charming. (Think Tom Hiddleston meets Johnny Depp.) Abhijeet Rane rounds out the cast as the amusing and self-deprecating Preston Hodge, a man with an insatiable taste for gambling, who finds himself in a plot of intrigue.
Shout outs to Jocelyne Fowler’s gorgeous costumes and May Nguyen’s breathtaking fight choreography, which had me wanting to jump out of my seat at points to make sure actors weren’t actually injured.
I cannot speak highly enough of the ingenious direction of Amy Poisson. Every moment onstage was crafted to be in service of the story. The stakes were high for all characters. The audience was rapt throughout the performance. A good director entertains: a great director elevates the art form of storytelling.
This show is not to be missed, folks! Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets to this fast-paced action thriller that will leave you yearning for more of the Yao clan.
By Katie Woodzick