Interspecies love fuels Jenny Connell Davis’ The Dragon Play, a gorgeously designed Chance Theater production most likely to enchant those willing and able to buy into its boy-meets-dragon, boy-loses-dragon conceit.
Chance favorites Gasper Gray and Elena Murray are “Loser Boy” and “Dragon Girl,” who meet cute in Central Texas when Boy tends to Girl’s wounds, the latter’s metal-studded leather jacket and dragon-tatted arms suggesting that human appearances to the contrary, she might actually be the three-century-old fire-breather she claims to be.
Meanwhile up in bone-cold Minnesota, a 30something couple (John J. Pistone and Keiko Elizabeth as “Man” and “Woman”) find their marriage threatened by the return of Woman’s ex (J.B. Waterman as “Dragon”), a six-foot-fiver whose metal-studded leather jacket and dragon-tatted arms suggest he too might be no more human than “Dragon Girl.”
Magical realism can work to perfection. Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House and Dead Man’s Cell Phone combine reality, fantasy, and whimsy to delightful effect, and the Chance’s recent Samsara, while at times overly cutesy, proved ultimately quite moving.
The Dragon Play is less successful, for this reviewer at least, the artificiality of Davis’ dialog placing an added burden on actors whose job it already is to convince us of a world in which humans not only coexist with dragons, they can fall in love across species lines.
Under Marya Mazor’s inventive direction, some very good work is being done on the Chance Theater stage. In particular, Murray’s tough, pragmatic “Dragon Girl” will impress anyone who caught her star turn as the ditzy (but not so dumb) Mandy in Time Stands Still, and Pistone nails the powerful monolog Davis has given “Man.”
Scenic designer Sara Ryung Clement’s spare but stunning set suggests considerably colder climes than Anaheim in August, and has been gorgeously lit by Pablo Santiago, who scores added points for the play’s requisite incendiary effects.
Clement’s costumes (including punk-rocker leather-and-metal dragon jackets) are winners too as are Masako Tobaru’s props.
Last but not least is John Zalewski’s masterful (if a tad overly relentless) sound design, one which leaves not a moment of silence in creating The Dragon Play’s otherworldly universe.
Nicole Schlitt is stage manager. Scott and Sandra Graham are executive producers.
If you can buy into The Dragon Play’s brand of magical realism, you may well fall entirely under its spell. If not, your reaction, like mine, will likely be somewhat more mixed.
Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills.
August 6, 2015
Photos: Doug Catiller, True Image Studio