Review | Stinkers: a giddy celebration of familial love

The Jungle, through Aug 18

John Catron and Megan M. Burns in STINKERS. Photo by Dan Norman.

The jewelbox Jungle on a stinky, gruesomely hot summer evening: the gorgeous lobby, perfectly sized with actual comfy furniture; then the beautiful performing space, polished wood and rich lighting, small but substantial, highlighting the always wonderful set design, in this case (Stinkers) by Chelsea M. Warren.

And of course, the exquisite a/c. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, delicious.

Anyway, the play, Stinkers. The first thing to be said about this play is that it uses puppets to portray the two children, Evie and Oscar. This is a well the Jungle has visited at least once before, in The Oldest Boy. In that play, the puppet created effective poetic/lyrical intensity. Here, not so much. Call me a creep, but I could never surmount an awareness that the puppeteers, Reed Sigmund and Megan M. Burns, seemed to be holding the children (the “stinkers” of the play – “I peed on my pants,” “I have a poop,”) by the hair. The children were loud, intrusive, distracting.

Just like real kids.

Stinkers is a beautiful portrait of the barely controlled chaos of a modern American family. In addition to the demands of Evie and Oscar, you have Calvin (a hootful turn by Nate Cheeseman) going mano á mano with a wasp nest; Grandma Joyce (the über-accomplished Sally Wingert), recently released from prison who, it’s discovered, has stashed $1.5 million behind a painting; Joyce’s pal, the quiet, but fully capable of violence, Lilith (George Keller) who demonstrates to innocent little Evie and Oscar how to make a lethal shiv out of a toothbrush.

And John Catron as Brad, the stay-at-home Dad, Brad. Catron gives a wonderful performance. We never for a moment doubt that he loves his kids, his mother. He even loves his insane mate, Calvin. Catron is the glue that hold Stinkers together and the director, Sarah Rasmussen, and the playwright, Josh Tobiessen, owe him a great debt.

Stinkers is not roll-in-the-aisles funny, but it has a charming comic flair. It won’t make you sweat but it will keep you entertained. Definitely worthwhile.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. John’s The Voice Of The Prairie has been performed 100 plus times and ditto Minnesota Moon and his adaptation of Sideways Stories From Wayside School. His The Summer Moon won a Kennedy Center Award For Drama. John has won fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation and from the National Endowment For The Arts. Please visit his informational website.




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