★★★★☆ - Delicious
Rebecca Gilman’s “Spinning into Butter,” now running at Cockroach Theatre, is quite the timely script even though it’s more than a decade old. It received its first production in 1999, and subsequently was released as a film in 2007. It’s a comedy that turns to tragedy as a university tries to adapt to a new paradigm of handling racism.
This is a tough row to hoe. As directed by Darren Weller, it mostly overcomes the inherent flaws of the script, and there were moments of blocking which undermined the building of tensions. But, his talented cast served him extremely well to overcome those issues as the production strove to focus on the relevant portions and themes of the script.
Leading them off to a rousing start was Kim Glover as Sarah Daniels, Dean of the university and the one challenged with, and ultimately responsible for, pushing forward a community of diversity. Glover delivered a fully-realized, three-dimensional character even when the script bogged down. Using the full instrument at her disposal, her transitions were evident through darkened scene changes.
Geo Nichols, as Ross Collins, matched her moment for moment as the faculty love interest gone awry. Nichols is always a joy to watch, but he upped the ante here. His Ross ran from impish guilt to savvy counselor, from the comedic to the dramatic, with perfection. He was always in the scene; what he was thinking or feeling even when he had no dialogue was always evident.
As Sarah deals with supporters and detractors within the faculty, Gary Lunn brought a grouchy, gruff, grumpy Dean Strauss to life without making him hateful. Even in his self-important, narcissistic moments Lunn strutted with pure confidence. Susan Lowe shined as Senior Dean Catherine Kenny. Wearing a pair of sneakers Lowe moved with the confidence and hubris of a woman in charge, and never let up. As she snuck into Sarah’s office during one scene, Lowe peeked around with a glimmer of glee in her expression. When she’s found out, she turned guilt to accusation with flawless timing.
Marcus Martinez brought a perfectly exasperating quality to Patrick Chibas, the student Sarah most wants to help. Martinez challenged each overture of assistance with a genuine innocence. The measured way in which he brought accusations of deliberately misguided support built in proper steps to Sarah’s continued apologetic responses.
The cast is rounded out by Joe Basso as Mr. Meyers, a Security Guard, and Alexander Medlicott as Greg Sullivan, the white student who finally manages to make any headway at all in generating a genuine dialog among the students. Basso moved through the play completely at ease, the character firmly in hand. Medlicott, who has only one other stage credit, wandered the stage without motivation, and there were moments when he delivered his lines without realistic intent. There were sparks of promise within his performance. Guaranteed this cast of experienced, talented actors will bring Medlicott’s abilities up more than several notches during the run of the play.
From the small tchotchkes and books on the shelves to the beautiful lighting and the laptop computer that actually worked, the attention to details was superb. At a mind-boggling 2-1/2 hours, the more this cast drills into the relevant themes, the better the production will get.
What: Spinning into Butter
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday, through March 25
2 p.m. Sundays March 12, 19, 26
Where: Art Square Theatre, 1025 S First St, #110
Tickets: $16 - $20 (www.cockroachtheatre.com, 702- 818-3422)
Grade: **** Delicious
Producer: Cockroach Theatre; Artistic Director: Levi Fackrell; Director: Darren Weller; Set Design: Rachel Smallwood, Darren Weller; Lighting Design: John Wampler; Costume Design: Kehler Welland; Sound Design: John McClain, James Von Boldt; Stage Manager: Cassidy Bonifacio