Gus Krieger's Drama Deity Clutch from The Porters of Hellsgate
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The last date listed for Deity Clutch was Sunday May 30, 2010 / 3:00pm.
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The year is 1944, segregation in the U.S. is prevalent and World War II is in full swing. At Port… More
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Featured review from Alex Parker
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Deity Clutch is astounding. A heavenly hybridization of Hitchcockian thriller, post-apocalyptic fiction, and a hint of Shakespearean tragedy, Clutch delivers a delightfully wicked woebegone tomorrow that bears both the beauty and futility of a parched and wilting bouquet of roses. Featuring an ensemble of individually well-rounded characters (played with precision by a surprisingly strong, talented young cast) and penned by the adroitly articulate writer/director Gus Krieger, Clutch is a gritty delve into the human condition that uplifts the mind as it deprecates the whole of humanity.
Mr. Krieger delights with the use of elevated English spoken by the colorful individuals of The Clutch (fully realized from inception). Not to imply there is an originality to it, but it is refreshing in its pursuit of purpose; a story not of character metamorphoses, but of the capacity of love. And while love may be the defining theme, Mr.Krieger does not sully the story with gaudy romanticism. Instead, he drives the plot with coerce circumstance, and common of psychological thrillers, leaves our assumed antagonist to the imagination for some time.
Set in obscurity, Clutch throws us head first into the battened mansion of “Annelies House,” where 12 companions evade an enemy known as The Outsiders. Through the language set down by Mr. Krieger, one is led to believe that it takes a certain level of intelligence, mixed with unbridled pertinacity, in order to have survived these trying times to the very moment we now witness. "Only the strong survive" not only referring to brute strength, but the human element (with our ability to learn and adapt) has been aptly applied. The smattering of books strewn across the stage supports this.
Mr. Krieger has set the intimate space nicely, using minimalist methods abundantly well. Aside from being practical, it leaves us to believe that the members of The Clutch have little else but books, utensils and some waning rations to their name. Boarded up window frames adorn the walls, setting a sense of seclusion, and The Clutch's motto, "Perseverance. Dedication. Obedience." is smeared in white-on-black letters to one side. Lighting design by Brian Shrock exaggerates the austere area, with scenes often starting with a dull spotlight, and transitioning to a soft, yellow glow that shrouds the stage in dusty, mild illumination. Finally, the costumes, beautifully designed by Jessica Pasternak, wrap the entire production up in tarnished, tattered garments incorporated with finer suits and jackets. Nothing seems out of place despite the eclectic mix.
Mr. Krieger's direction was natural, though he allowed his actors too much freedom for unnecessary gesture. It was easy to see he spent time nurturing growth, helping to define individuality. Even the Shakespearean clowns of the piece, Dongo and Orko (Michael Hoag and Edward Castuera, respectively), although quite similar, had very distinctive mannerisms setting them apart.
While the entire cast shined, Rob Cunliffe, who portrayed Taranis (leader of The Clutch) certainly stood out. His monologues were entrancing, with flashes of anger pouring out of the edgy calm he coolly depicted with precision. While tame delivery occasionally weakened Mr.Cunliffe, he was thoroughly engaging throughout.
Other notables include the aforementioned Mr. Hoag and Mr. Castuera, who danced through Annelies House spreading cheer via their bravery, intellect, and a certain child-like innocence. They are your Vladimir and Estragon, your Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, your Pinky and The Brain, if you will (though they both are far more Brain, than Pinky), and the pair of them enraptured with ease. Their excitement when it came to serving provisions was particularly pleasant. Thomas Bigley as the war-ravaged Raamah easily leveled their playing field with his biting sarcasm and realistic outlooks. His dialogue was masterfully contained.
The lovely Taylor Fisher was fantastic as the delicate, eternally happy Perkunas. Portraying natural, motherly qualities with ease, Ms. Fisher quickly warmed the heart. From the very introduction of her character, asking a troubled Clutch member to "tell a half truth hoping it gets mistaken for the whole," she delights with unbridled compassion and dainty charisma. Tarleton, brilliantly realized by Patrick J. Saxon, was also a treat. The reticent butler of The Clutch, Mr. Saxon appears to be a black and white film just begging to burst into color. Lastly, Christina MacKinnon was mesmerizing as the inquisitive Ukko. Charmingly innocent, and beaming with a "down the rabbit hole" curiosity, Ms. MacKinnon ensnares early on with what little stage time she is given. Her adorable discovery of a "critter" in a common room of Annelies House is breathtakingly sincere.
Deity Clutch has its faults. Why Mr. Krieger felt it necessary for Ashie (Kate O'Toole), a mother who's lost her baby to The Outsiders, to flutter in and out of delusion with ease is unclear. Ashie is often seen coddling a wrap of blankets, yet whenever confronted she quickly admits comprehension that her son is no longer with them. Confusing, to say the least. While chemistry was abundant throughout, one scene in particular between Dana DeRuyck and Tyler Olshansky was distressingly weak. Separately, they were acceptable (though Ms. DeRuyck strayed unnecessarily toward stereotype), but in a pinnacle scene where chemistry was everything, the intensity was unfortunately flat. Ms. Olshansky was quite entertaining in the telling of her tall-tale, but the build up toward her eventual breakdown should not have overshadowed the breakdown itself. Lastly, a lack of sound effects depreciated one high stakes scene to some degree.
Deity Clutch may not be "perfection unlimited," but the Porters are getting there. Concerning the title, each member of The Clutch is named after a deity of differing mythology. I also believe that the deity of it all comes from Taranis, who adores the beloved clutch he's painstakingly built and maintained so much that it has become his very religion, likened to his ruler, and he defends its sanctity at all cost. I implore you to attend Deity Clutch while you still can, as it will undoubtedly lead you to your own conclusions, and leave you with no choice but to "believe whatever you must."
Deity Clutch shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, and Sundays at 3PM until May 30, 2010 at The Lex Theatre in Hollywood, CA (one block east of Highland and Lexington Ave). Tickets are $20 ($15 for students, seniors over 55, or members of AFTRA, AEA or SAG). Please call 951-262-3030 for reservations.
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I can't say enough great things about this show, Deity Clutch. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. This very original, interesting, layered, thought-provoking script provides a fantastic frame to the art that unfolds in front of your...continued
The Porters of Hellsgate continue their fourth season in May 2010 with Deity Clutch, a new play by associate artistic director Gus Krieger. Mr. Krieger returns to playwriting for the first time since The Secret Life of Ben Franklin at The Empty Stage and Honest Iago at The Cheney Theatre, both produced in 2005. Mr. Krieger wrote, directed, and co-produced the short film Ol’ Stan Levid, which premiered at the 2007 Screamfest Horror Film Festival. His produced feature screenplay The Killing Room was directed by Jonathan Liebesman, starred Academy Award nominee Chloë Sevigny and Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton, and premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.