Who wouldn’t want to have the face that “launched a thousand ships”? Watch the absurd farce “The Ugly One” and reconsider its appeal…. WaterTower Theatre’s 12th Annual Out of the Loop Fringe Festival opened March 7th with a full to rafters house of merry patrons, eager to see what sort of quirky, unusual performance would kick off the two-week celebration of the theatrical muse. WaterTower Theatre’s entry, “The Ugly One”, threw open the rhetorical curtain with masterful style and spirit. A sharp-edged, chilling, witty “what-if” of a dream turned nightmare, the play and its production sets the performance bar high for the rest of this always diverse fringe festival.
An extremely ugly man undergoes extensive reconstructive surgery to get ahead on his job and in his life, with unanticipated consequences that spiral way, way out of control. WaterTower Theatre’s Artistic Director Terry Martin guides a fine-tuned ensemble of four top regional talents in Addison Center’s black box Studio Theatre. With a set consisting of a solitary office chair and a triptych of reversible tall panels on rollers with full-length mirrors on one side, the production focuses hard on words and actions and how characters deal with unanticipated complications. Equity actor Montgomery Sutton plays Lette, the ambitious but ugly man who undergoes surgical transformation and finds he gets way more than he bargained for. Honest and fully committed to his character’s predicament, no matter its bizarre evolution, Sutton holds the audience’s sympathies throughout and carries the play’s rapid-fire journey on capable shoulders. Near the play’s end he argues in a monologue riff with three images of himself in the full-length mirrors; Twilight Zone-like, it seems as if more than four versions of Lette wade into the heated dispute. Regional favorite Ted Wold plays Lette’s boss Scheffler and his cosmetic surgeon, spouting much of the play’s black humor as well as inspiring Lette to undergo surgery and exploiting him after with utter abandon. Comic kamikaze Jeff Swearingen teams up with versatile, fearless femme fatale Natalie Young in peopling Lette’s world with unpleasant expectations once his surgery takes place. All four actors demonstrate uncanny instinct for pacing and adeptness at instantaneous character change within scenes, with the bulk of challenging reinvention weighing on Swearingen and Young. As an ensemble they honor playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s script well and demonstrate audacious skill in exercising their actor’s craft with precision and confidence. Out of the Loop 2013: it’s launched, “so spread sunshine all over the place…Just put on a happy face….” Or, maybe not, after you see “The Ugly One” at one of its fringe festival performances?
For tickets and information about WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in Addison TX, March 7-17, call 972.450.6232, or visit: www.watertowertheatre.org
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(Quote from “Bye Bye Birdie”, 1960 stage musical with book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse.)
Photos by Mark Oristano:
Montgomery Sutton (solo)
Montgomery Sutton and Natalie Young