Keep Going: “Killer Maples: The Musical”

The Cast of "Killer Maples," photo via http://www.yellingmantheatre.com/

The Cast of “Killer Maples,” photo via http://www.yellingmantheatre.com/

Presented by Yelling Man Theater
Book and lyrics by Trip Venturella
Music by Andres Ramos
Directed by John Scala

June 3-5, 2016
POP Allston
Allston, MA
Yelling Man on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Allston, MA) Killer Maples is a cute chamber musical with exceedingly raw potential. It will eventually be a diamond in the rough. It’s still pressurized coal right now. The creators have a lot of work ahead of them if that’s something they are interested in. The performances set for this weekend are a preview of what the show can become with edits and rewrite for emotional and plot clarity.

This show is a silly musical which appears to be based on the tree-rape scene from The Evil Dead (1981) but with more science. Sue (Kaitlin Pelky) is a blunt maple farmer with a sugar shack under siege by anthropomorphic, mutant killer maple trees.  Reggie (Crispin Swank) is her deadbeat ex-boyfriend with a knack for mechanical engineering. On a mountain in Vermont, these two are determined to take back their backwater home from murderous Maples (Rory Boyd) set on creating a new world order.

The book and lyrics by Venturella are clever, sometimes very funny. The score by Ramos frequently enters into a Kurt Weill-like dream space. It’s more folk opera than it is modern musical. Regardless of public assumption regarding topics for operas, Killer Maples could work very well as a short opera a la Sondheim. Strange, yes. Inappropriate for the score and lyrics, no. The isn’t to say that the show needs expansion. Rather, the best moments deserve highlighting within the production.

There are three actors on stage. It is obvious that one has more theatrical training than the others. There is nothing wrong with this in theory, in practice it means the cast is uneven. It would be a cop-out to compare the actors. The point is that having such vastly differing qualities of talent distracts the audience from the more subtle elements of the performance such as the writing or melodies.

The volume of the music, although soft, made it difficult to understand the cast. This show isn’t amplified. We had to work to understand lyrics we weren’t expecting to hear. Diction work is advised.

Killer Maples: The Musical has some major flaws. It’s alright. Keep going. The good stuff has the potential to be excellent. Just keep going. With some work, this musical will be the jewel it’s meant to be.

A note on POP Allston: Bravo to Yelling Man Theatre for finding a new venue in the city! Director, John Scala did an amazing job with his staging in such a curious space. That being said: this building is a mess. Is it a prerequisite for all of the buildings in Allston to be managed by slumlords? Must they all be rundown? We hear stories of students living in squalor in apartments mismanaged by greedy, manipulative realtors but we hear nothing from unhappy business owners. If POP Allston is any indication, this problem is more rampant than just student housing. POP Allston has no AC. One of the sinks in the bathroom has no running water and the toilets don’t flush properly. The floors are cracking. The walls conceal a decaying skeleton. And, if the sign in the lobby is believed, it’s to the tune of $4k a month. Hipsters, it’s OK to have nice things. It’s possible to be grateful for a space and have higher expectations in its management. It’s OK to tell your landlord where to stick it by contacting the city via the Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for help. You don’t have to live like this.

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