While there are a few issues I have with the script, with an incredible cast of actresses, and direction that expertly navigates the quick shifts from comedy to horror in Alexis Scheer's text, Stray Cat's production is as strong and memorable as the characters it depicts.
Over 90 intermissionless minutes, we learn that all four girls have suffered trauma, tragedy or loss (one girl's father committed suicide, another's young sister drowned in the family pool) and there is even the remote possibility that the father of new member Kit, who died just after she was born, may have actually been Escobar. In successive club meetings, the girls deal with pregnancy scares, Pipe's desire to get the school to reinstate their club, and how the election is forcing their political views to put them at odds with each other, while navigating through life as fearful teenagers who grew up in the shadow of 9/11, and also trying to conjure up the ghost of Pablo Escobar.
There is a lot more that happens, but I've been asked to not mention anything that occurs in the last 15 minutes.
Though some things are truly frightening, there are many moments of pure beauty and magic in the play and the production.
Director Virginia Olivieri has assembled a crackerjack cast of young women who beautifully and passionately play this group of four high school teens. They embody their roles with complete intensity and create realistic relationships with each other that form a cohesive group of friends. Their line delivery is natural and their body language and facial expressions work well for the wide range of emotions the script requires. I don't think I've seen a tighter knit and more realistic ensemble in a play in town in years.
Shawnee Fierros Casas Richberger is appropriately entitled, intense and confrontational as Pipe, the wealthy Cuban Republican ringleader of the group, as the character is challenged by other club members who question her leadership tactics and her sexuality. Angel Sicairos is cool, powerful, unafraid and completely sure of herself as Kit, the newest member of the group. With spot-on comic timing, Jasmyn Gade is hilarious as the impulsive and overly excitable youngest member of the group, Zoom; and, as Squeeze, Jazmyne Plantillas is practical, passionate and grounded.
Olivieri's staging makes great use of Robert Andrews' realistic treehouse setting, which ensures the various areas of the set are used effectively. Assistant director Samantha Hanna's choreography of a short dance number that Squeeze rehearses with the group begins as comical but slowly sbecomes a moment of sheer beauty. Dallas Robert Nichols' stunning lighting design and the evocative sound design by Pete Bish create stage images that explode with color and noise, ranging from horrific to magical. Monica Sampson's intimacy and fight choreography achieve natural moments, and I need to also mention the excellent contributions of both Huberto Paz and Eleanor Field.
...Our Dear Dead Drug Lord at Stray Cat Theatre is a thought-provoking, haunting and powerful drama. There are moments that are surreal and shocking, and characters and situations that will most likely stick with you for days.