Detroit's Matrix Theatre Company takes a fierce comedic swipe at the dangers of nuclear power and science gone amok in their new production "Raven's Seed."
The play takes place in the vicinity of a mountain top nuclear research facility whose scientific experiments are polluting the nearby wilderness. The sickness unleashed by a radioactive spill at Liverwurst Laboratories forces the creatures of the forest, depicted as archetypal animal spirits, to grapple with the threat humans pose to their habitat and sends Raven on a quest to save the natural world.
California playwright Steven Most, an Emmy-award-winning television writer and former San Francisco Mime Troupe collaborator, is the man behind the play, and his comedic chops are quite evident in the production.
The play is a traveling production -- meaning that audience must move in and out of the theater and its surrounding environment with every act -- and the each of the different locations seem to offer slightly different comedic flavors.
Inside the lab, the audience is treated to the comic antics and witty repartee of two scientists who are clearly off their rockers, harkening back to the humor of classic movie comedians like Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers. Many of the outside scenes are dominated by the animal spirits and feature episodes of surreal slapstick that might be at home in a Tex Avery cartoon.
The performances of Maurizio Rosas-Dominguez as Coyote and Rodolfo "Rudy" Villarreal as Raven stand out due to the actors' fantastic comedic timing and over-the-top bravado. They both do an exceptional job channeling their cartoonish animal spirits and inviting the audience to the seance. A word of warning to parents: Some of the humor leans a little towards the raunchy side, so keep the younger kids at home with the babysitter.
The play is also visually captivating. The animal masks are works of art, and the hilarious bubble suit of the show's young heroine Nova is almost worth the price of admission by itself.
Over the last 21 years Matrix has developed a reputation for delivering insightful, thought-provoking and provocative productions. Their history of performing and creating educational socially relevant work recently won them a $53,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. "Raven's Seed" is a wonderful, wacky addition to their repertoire.
"Raven's Seed" runs Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. from April 28 through May 20 at the Matrix Theatre, 2730 Bagley, Detroit. For more information visit www.matrixtheatre.org.