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THEATER REVIEW--The Winners - Ladue News: Arts & Entertainment

THEATER REVIEW--The Winners

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Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 9:36 am

STORY: Cassie and Kurt have known each other since high school. They were apart for a while in college, but then reunited and have been married for several years. Their lives take a sudden and dramatic shift; however, when they win a $337 million lottery. They’re careful people by nature, so they don’t quit their jobs or burn any bridges. What they decide to do first, though, is to satisfy one of Cassie’s fantasies, so they hire an escort named Tiffany for an evening of sexual adventures. But the next morning, she has a revelation that she considers both profound and exhilarating: She wants to ‘buy’ Tiffany’s freedom.

HIGHLIGHTS: Playwright David Williams’ dark and disturbing drama won HotCity’s 2010 GreenHouse New Play Festival and is receiving its world premiere at HotCity under the direction of Marty Stanberry.

OTHER INFO: While The Winners is quirky and current, moments of humor are relatively scarce. Truth is, the first act is focused mostly on sex and quickly raises the squirm factor. If you pay attention, though, there’s a nugget of information that pays a big reward in the far superior, albeit shorter, second act. There’s got to be a morning after for Cassie, Kurt and Tiffany, a dental hygienist who points out that she’s done more with her science degree than banker Cassie has done with her history diploma. Cassie’s suggestion to buy Tiffany’s ‘freedom,’ however, elevates stress and discomfort to a disquieting level. Williams’ pointed script allows for some splendid acting possibilities here, and under Stanberry’s precise guidance that’s what Shanara Gabrielle, Shaun Sheley and Sasha Diamond provide. As Cassie, Gabrielle shows us the monstrous inner core that is masked by Cassie’s outwardly sweet and girlish demeanor. Sheley also is able to develop Kurt’s character in the second act when confronted with a shock to his system that makes the lottery win pale in comparison. Diamond capably depicts the hedonistic and mercenary Tiffany, whose abrupt answers to the couple’s probing questions are a defense mechanism for her own situation. Stanberry notes that “this is the kind of play that will foster discussion long after the play ends,” and he’s right about that. It’s too bad that the tedious and uninspiring first act is required to get to the compelling conclusion.

HOTCITY THEATRE

RATING: A 3.5 ON A SCALE OF 1-TO-5.

VENUE: KRANZBERG BLACK BOX THEATRE, 501 N. GRAND

DATES: SEPT. 23 AND 24

TICKETS: FROM $15-$25; 289-4061 OR HOTCITYTHEATRE.ORG

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