I can’t help but watch a show and have my experiences as a director, writer and occasional actor invade my opinions. In some cases it’s a “I’d have done things differently” and in others it’s “I’d have never thought of that in a million, billion, gazillion years.” It’s the latter of these that I applied to Renegade Theatre Experiment’s opening show of their 10th season. Yes. 10th. What? You’ve never heard of them? Well, my guess is you’ll become a Renegade-superfan after your first… experiment. From concept to execution this is mind-boggling excellence. Mind. Boggling. Excellence.
“8 actors. 7 roles. You, the audience, cast the show.” What a great idea and a fascinating challenge to write, direct, design and especially act in. So let me get this straight. Each part is non age, race or gender specific? That’s right, therefore playable by any of the actors. You mean the actors have to know all the staging and all the lines for all the characters? Yes. And they don’t know what part they are playing that night until the audience decides? Once again, yes. And if your brain hasn’t exploded by now, just wait until you actually see the show. Tens of thousands of possible combinations make for hilarious interactions, yes, but oh the things I can’t give away contained in the script and in the unique performances. Let’s just say the audience discovers that there are a number of bizarre and wickedly inappropriate things that apparently can happen on a job interview for a grant-writing position for a Chicago art museum.
It’s hard to imagine better casting for this to be honest. Professional, brilliant, committed, entertaining, this cast puts the live in live theatre, and I’ve just seen a single full manifestation of the show. I left unable to fathom how could it have BEEN any better and dying to know how a different casting permutation would have dealt with each character interaction. This is the mark of true art. It’s super exciting to see anyone take on this show and the to take it on well. It’s artistic icing on the mother-lovin-cake of theatrical awesome.
But RTE is kind of a pro at different. This type of engaging and creative challenge is at the heart of everything “The Experiment” does. Representing the South Bay’s voice for alternative theatre, past shows with inventive presentational twists include last year’s Ouroboros (its 5 scenes played in order have one outcome, played in reverse the following night present another) and Bill of (W)rights (which moved the audience to locations around the theatre and even divided them at times into two separate “tours.”) Runt is perhaps the most challenging of these shows for the actors and perhaps the most rewarding for the audience too.
Even their pricing structure is flexible, intelligent and experimental. The customized RTE Experimenter Pass is a perfect way to see multiple performances (of this or any of their shows) for one low price with no risk and all reward. The pass is $20 to cover your first three months of membership and then only $6.99 a month thereafter. You may cancel any time after your first three months. No questions. No hassles. You can even get your friends in for 1/2 price on any night if you’re a pass holder. The only thing missing is a set of Gunsu knives.
Plan on attending at least two performances to get the full effect of what it is this group of talented, forward thinking, risk-takers have accomplished. It is with great pleasure, for so many reasons, I give this show the first ever 5 out of 5 jewels in the tiara. Eat the Runt Plays through October 1st at the Historic Hoover in San Jose. Go. Go now. Go often.