Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
By Bruce Graham
Directed by Daniel Bourque
Review by Travis Manni
(Boston, MA) If characters are going to be trapped in a prison, they have to be compelling for the sake of a play. Thankfully, in Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s production of Daniel Bourque’s Coyote on a Fence, all the characters are quite fascinating to watch move around and exist in the world of jail cells.
To make use of his time on death row, inmate John Brennan (Mark Krawczyk) has spearheaded a newspaper, the Death Row Advocate. In particular, his obituaries have caught the eye of reporter Sam Fried (Robert Orzalli), who attempts to learn what the editor did to wind up so close to death’s door. Meanwhile, new cell neighbor and extreme white supremacist Bobby Reyburn (Cameron Gosselin) only wants to make friends and chummy officer Shawna DuChamps (Regine Vital) supervises all interactions to make sure things never get out of hand.
One of the striking pieces of Hub Theatre Company’s production was its excellent use of space. There is a second floor balcony that circles the main stage area, and several times throughout the show a character would appear on this tiered level to oversee the prisoners below or conduct a dialogue. It was a simple touch that elevated the performance and gave it a little extra spark.
The performances themselves were all around quite stunning. Regine Vital as Officer Shawna DuChamps is brutal and consistent, while still maintaining the softer charisma and approachability of the character. Mark Krawczyk as the tortured John Brennan struggled at first to connect with the audience, with a couple of detached monologues, but quickly redeems himself to reveal the character’s true compassion. Capping it off was Cameron Gosselin’s truly standout performance as the racist, zany, and mentally unstable Bobby. He manages to portray a wicked and vile man while still keeping a sense of humanity infused with a quirky likeability to make a remarkable portrait and examination of a compelling character.
Also captivating was the repeated shackling of John Brennan in preparation for his interviews with reporter Sam Fried. There was a mesmerizing type of devastation to watching him briefly hold himself in a fetal position as chains were cuffed to his ankles that became kind of cathartic, reminding you that while the characters felt human, they were trapped in a system that treated them like animals.
To make both an interesting plot and world inhabited by characters that are both relatable and human is the ultimate accomplishment of any show. Adding the fact that the main characters are men who have murdered in cold blood and are still able to trigger sympathy and compassion from the audience makes Coyote on a Fence a great theatrical success, and a show that anyone can find enjoyable.
Coyote on a Fence runs for 1 hour, 30 minutes without an intermission. All performances are PWYC (Pay What You Can) and tickets can be purchased here.
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