Having never been, I was excited to visit the quaint yet vibrant Grey Box Theatre on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Living just up the street from it, I always pass by on my adventures for food and beverages, but hadn’t had a reason to ever go in. I always notice how entertained and awestruck the audience seems to be by the performances taking place at the corner of Butler and 36th and after my experience of Thursday night’s performance of The Ruling Class by Throughline Theatre Company I can certainly see why.
From the moment I walked in the door, the venue was bursting with vibrant characters decked out in old-timey British clothing belting their hearts out to whatever ode they felt like shouting. Their energy was excellent and perfectly set the stage for the lively performance we were about to see. Their spirits carried on into the performance as the 13th Earl (Tom Mirth) took the stage to display his affluence and unusual pastimes.
Each character was nothing short of delightful, eccentric, and hilarious all wrapped into one. I liked the way the crew used the whole theater to encompass their performance including the outside of the venue that is first utilized when the 14th Earl of Gurney, or Jack as he sometimes goes by, (Everett Lowe) enters the scene. I have to say he was my absolute favorite performer in this show. He perfectly encompassed the delusional schizophrenic attempting to fit into his “normal” surroundings that may not be so normal after all. I actually cringed in empathy during one of his “episodes” as his losing his mind was so relatable to the pressures we all feel going about our “regular” days facing all of the obstacles life has to throw at us.
The hilarity of Dr. Paul Herder (David Colin Lynch) and Lady Claire Gurney (Jenny Malarkey) absolutely shined in this performance. Having studied psychology, I couldn’t help, but laugh at the clever references and innuendos made by Dr. Herder as he stroked his lab rat and cited Freud. His cleverness as a performer took hold of this role as he seduced Lady Gurney with dirty experiment talk. Malarkey’s facial expressions and mannerisms were priceless as she perfectly encompasses Lady Gurney’s conceitedness throughout the evening.
The other performances were also spectacular from the disapproving Bishop Lampton (Parag S. Gohel) to the overdramatic Charles Gurney (John Michnya). The loveable yet bitter servant, Tucker, (John Henry Steelman) was also a delight although I sometimes had trouble hearing him when he sang as I did with some of the actors’ dialogue when they spoke in extremely thick British accents. This sometimes made it hard to catch the jokes and references each actor was alluding to.
I would be remiss not to mention the extraordinary voices each of the female actors’ displayed. Larissa Overholt and Amanda Montoya, who sometimes took the stage together as Mrs. Treadwell and Mrs. Piggot-Jones, harmonized perfectly together no matter what role in the performance they were taking on and Laura Barletta, who played Grace Shelley, had an absolutely amazing set of pipes. They all took on many roles throughout the performance and mastered each and every one.
While the stage wasn’t too large or filled with props, the costumes helped set the scene nicely. Besides the white Nike jacket that temporarily made an appearance on Jack, I felt like I was right in the middle of Britain. The upper class’ outfits showcased how highly they thought of themselves while the middle class remained humble and the lower class still looked sharp, but modest.
I do have to say I was pleased by my decision to not sit in the front row. The characters often got very involved with the audience members in these chairs and while I love to watch others get put on the spot, I turn as red as a cherry when it happens to me. Not to mention, there was some serious spittle action flowing from several of the characters mouths during some of the more passionate scenes. At least no one can say they didn’t put their heart and soul into it.
All in all, this was great performance and perfect display of the so-called “normalcy” we are all expected to strive for each and every day. The genuineness in each character’s performance was truly a delight and I hope to see another Throughline production sometime again in the future.
Special thanks to Throughline Theatre Company for complimentary press tickets. The Ruling Class has three more performances, closing Saturday the 13th, tickets and more information can be found here.
Performance Date: Thursday, June 11, 2015