Something is a little off here in the Feathers and Teeth produced by Washington Ensemble Theatre. "It’s Such a Pretty World Today" by Nancy Sinatra accompanying the typical American household set certainly sets the initial mood. This 80 minute play is a unique comical horror show, illustrating grief stricken Chris (Rachel Guyer-Mafune) after losing her mom and now dealing with over enthusiastic perky step mother Carol (Samie Spring Detzer). With Chris’ anger against the world thoroughly expressed through her love of rock music and her multiple attempts of stabbing people (and the successful attempt at a strange animal in the pot that the play revolves around), Carol’s bipolar moods and manipulation over her husband Arthur (Brandon J. Simmons), and Arthur’s introduction is with him having blood on his hands and maybe just killing an animal (on accident, though), this play keeps the audience guessing on who exactly is the psychopath.
The artistic touches were great. I will not give any vital spoilers away. In one striking scene, Carol smokes at the table in the dark with the red light highlighting her, and below her in the crawl space (that is viewable to the audience) someone is maliciously being attacked in all red light. It was a great contrast, unique use of multiple levels of staging, and a scene that was ultimately wonderfully twisted. Feathers and Teeth certainly could have been scarier, though. It consisted of a few jump scares with the animal jumping in the pot or with the lighting design by Ryan Dunn, but it could have had more of a variety of scares.
The cartoon design by the Broom Cupboard Studio were a nice touch as well, as it illustrated the stories Chris was telling. These two scenes broke up the majority yelling dialogue, and made it a little more tolerable.
Samie Spring Detzer excelled with her phenomenal acting. Either in a floral apron or an all white nurse’s outfit, she played the cleaning and cooking people-pleaser wife, Carol, phenomenally. Her expressions were over exaggerated accompanied with her loud and hilarious laugh. I also appreciated how Carol was not totally innocent to this housewife (even though she has a job as a nurse) role, as she was completely controlling and manipulative of Arthur, eventually making him choose between his daughter and her.
One off-putting part of the play was the strange attraction Chris has to her father, Arthur. From caressing his hand to sitting in his lap to trying to kiss him, it was uncomfortable. And when he did not really resist until Carol entered the room made it worse. The fact that this part of the story was not addressed and did not seem to add to the plot whatsoever confused me. The only explanation I can find for this was to demonstrate Chris’ rebellious and confused behavior. But it was already pretty well highlighted with the loud rock music, the fact that the parents talk about it almost the entire play, and her yelling.
Besides that, the play was entertaining. It could have amped up the horror aspect and dialed down on the yelling, but it was well executed and leaves you with a “what did I just see” feeling.
Lead photo caption: Samie Spring Detzer as Carol in WET's Feathers and Teeth. Photo credit: Chris Bennion.
Sitara Lewis is a 12th grader at Roosevelt High School.
This review was written as part of the Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.
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