by John Stoehr
An original production of an American play by a regional American theater company in a small American town. It's the rarest of things. Fortunately, something like Sheep's Clothing isn't just hard to find — it's actually good. More precisely, it's one to watch. That's what City Paper senior critic Jon Santiago said this week in his review of Spender Deering's play.
Santiago later told me Paul Whitty, as the central character Luggs, is particularly good. Santiago has seen him perform an array of works — from Doubt to Defiance to Hogs to now Sheep's Clothing — and he can tell how much he stretches when he works with PURE. That, and Whitty's funny in a low-key way. Evidently, he wears a pad around his waist to give the impression that he's way overweight. And on top of that, he spends most of the play sitting down and talking and putting on and taking off his socks. Nice staging there.
Here's a snippet of Santiago's critique:
Deering presents this process as what it is: not an elegantly simple, attractively linear progression but a series of fitful negotiations. In Deering's loving appreciation for this process, it's less a water-tight vessel for education than a leaky old boat, in which older men tug boys along in uncertain waters.
The locker room is the sanctuary for these deliberations between men and boys, a safe haven for uncertainty. The play manages to straddle opposing viewpoints. The cast runs riot in the intervening open space. Steven's sin is intruding a woman — the school's principal Jane (Pam Nichols) — into the dialogue. All hell gleefully breaks loose.
The play's dialogue is replete with telling one-liners, so many they threaten to slip the net entirely, lost among the enormous haul Deering pulls up for the audience. Luggs blistering assessment of the neutering of his world — "First it was gym, then phys ed., and now — Kinetic Wellness!" — is a typical, razor-sharp throw-away line.
An original production by PURE Theatre
May 7-9, 13-15, 7:30 p.m.
May 10, 2 p.m.
Circular Congregational Church, Lance Hall
150 Meeting St.