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KEVIN!!!!! – The PIT (People’s Improv Theatre), New York

Writer: Recent Cutbacks

Music:  Kelsey Didion

Director: Kristin McCarthy Parker

Reviewer: Jonathan Alexandratos

Recent Cutbacks brings an hilarious, innovative parody of Home Alone which is anything but what the French would call les incompetents. It transforms The PIT’s Striker Main Stage into a middle-class Chicago home, and then, within that, a miniature version of the same, in which puppets act out some of the source material’s more active scenes. Lighting design (by Christine Pynn) delightfully shifts audience attention between miniature and life-sized action, all while effectively informing the moods of various scenes. There is no traditional sound design involved, because there is a live choir of four–the incredibly talented Sarah Godwin, Evan Maltby, Richard Sears, and Michelle Vo, directed by Sears–who make the show’s sound effects themselves. Take that, trout sniffers!

But wait. There is something this review is forgetting. No, no – there’s definitely something left out. It’s not the coffee. Definitely not the garage door. Wait… KEVIN!!!!! (the five exclamation points following the name of Home Alone’s main character being well earned).

The entire cast, and their puppets, do an expert job of recreating most of the 1990 Christmas hit, with some cuts for time, all while injecting just the right amount of commentary. Nick Abeel is the perfect choice for Kevin, combining the best of early Culkin and late Culkin into one marvelous actor. Natalie Rich delivers a stand-out performance as Kevin’s mother Kate McCallister, offering astounding levels of both touching emotion and laugh-out-loud comedy. Sonia Mena and Kyle Schaefer pour themselves into the remaining characters, giving them a life that more than hints at these actors’ natural talent.

Beyond stellar performances, KEVIN!!!!! is virtually a lesson in puppet theatre. As miniature sets turn, primitive puppets come alive, and scenes are projected and cut together before the audience’s eyes, one learns how much magic can spontaneously erupt from a bare stage. Every transition works like clockwork, and this team is so knowledgeable about their craft that they improvise in ways that further heighten the show’s humor. Perhaps, though, it is the transitions into the tender moments that are most impressive. Home Alone has its beats of warmth, and KEVIN!!!!! doesn’t neglect those. In fact, the play embraces them just as lovingly as it does the film’s comedy.

KEVIN!!!!! seamlessly weaves elements of parody, puppetry, and professionalism into an hour’s worth of genius. Director Kristin McCarthy Parker has crafted a real winner with KEVIN!!!!!

If KEVIN!!!!! is an attempt to piece together Home Alone’s screenplay onstage, then a review of KEVIN!!!!! should conclude by attempting the same with Roger Ebert’s 1990 review of the film. So here, presented with light interjection, is some of that review: “A real kid would probably be more frightened than this movie character, and would probably cry [unless you’re Nick Abeel, who can freakin’ handle it].” “The plot is so implausible that it makes it hard for us to really care about the plight of the kid [but it’d be really awesome if Kristin McCarthy Parker could direct the stage play k thx].” “Because all plausibility is gone, we sit back, detached, to watch stunt men and special effects guys take over a movie that promised to be the kind of story audiences could identify with [but probably in about 26 years Recent Cutbacks will make it all good so I’m not that worried whatever].”

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

Runs until 7 January 2017

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The American team is under the editorship of Adrienne Sowers. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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