THE HAMSTER CAGE IS THE PLACE TO BE THIS SPRING, YOU GET YOUR OWN WHEEL AND TEN PUPS,
THEY ARE WAITING FOR YOU
PianoFight’s Second stage has cleverly been transformed into a homey hamster cage, with an adult size wheel and plenty of yummy pellets to eat. BREEDERS is the new comedy written by Dan Giles and superbly directed by Adam Odsess-Rubin, and is now on stage at Faultline Theater, PianoFight only through April 29th. A cross between Medea with her kids and the warm gay couple waiting for their new baby to arrive. Giles dark biting and very humorous comedy hits home with families expecting children and the kids that change the game plan.
The polished Sam Berkten and skilled Ryan Hayes play a gay couple Dean and Mikey. They are expecting a baby, but are they ready for the challenge of double dads. Berkten and Hayes have the perfect comic timing for this hilarious task of matching wits with the two hamsters they are also baby sitting for their eight year old niece. The onery boy hamsters seem to romp a lot, confusing the issue that this is a couple of furry lovers that have more sex than Dean and Mikey. Giles makes the perfect go between from the two adorable men and furry muskrats who now realized one of them is not a boy! Max Chanowitz’ clever set design makes an easy transition to inside the Ham cage with a full size adult working wheel and life size water bottle and rodent food. Director Odsess-Rubin is excellent in his timing and comic smooth transitions to the cage scenes.
The adult size hamsters, Jason and Tyson, played by the cuddly talented Neil Higgins and his new mad hamster girlfriend played by the jaded Nikki Menez. Higgins is especially funny as the round cuddly hamster who is abused by his mad furry girlfriend, yet he is over the top in love with her. Of course it is no surprise that Tyson gets pregnant and bitchy, the romp gets tasty and the wild, the expecting mom is giddy with craze.
The two men watch over the cage but have their own issues to deal with and one of them fears their new baby's arrival. They both question their love for each other. Dean has doubts about being a dad, and wants to get back to the days when he could use his dating apps. He is also very intrigued with the hamster pals watching them day and night as they deal with their family issues. Blood fights and chaos ring the cage and scare Dean. Both Hayes and Bertken bring this gay couple some authentic reality that high lights both their excellent acting skills. Higgins and Menez who later double as human characters are also sharp with their comic skills. I won’t give much more away, but 10 pups do join the cast, and blood, love, the hamster wheel, and the love of toes and feet all complete this wonderful 90 minute spin with the four lovers.
The flips and smooth change from hamster to human is perfectly staged by first time director Adam Odsess-Rubin and Chanowitz’ brilliant life sized hamster wheel steals the show. Props by the accomplished Hannah Barnard-Henke who created some great hamster fun, including a rainbow colored critter trail, the large water bottle and a real tiny hamster cage that sits on the couple’s coffee table, but Henke most creative craft is the mob of pups. You want to take one home. Sound designer Evan Wardell mixed some perfect tunes for the transitions from cage to apartment and all the songs match the chaos on stage, including the feeding moments.
The lighting is most effective as designer Maxx Kurzunski manages to light the inside of the critter trails, and adds a warm loving feel to Dean and Mikey’s apartment. Wes Crain, trying to avoid the obvious furry connection, created some marvelous costumes for both hamsters, and gave the two men the correct millennial feel in their clothing. The highlight of Crain’s design is Higgins’ dapper hamster vest and bow tie charm.
Assistant Director Joseph Reyes, I can only imagine, had to wrangle the ten rolly polly pups and fight captain Kyle McReddie choreographed some amazing closing Greek Medea with the kid romps. As fun as this all looks, the angst in BREEDERS is a very edgy play about parenthood, love and empowerment with families. Giles clever subtext shouts out that we all need to escape a hamster cage. Faultline Theater’s artistic directors Cole Ferraiulolo and Rose Oser continue to stage edgy new original works that are important to Bay Area Theatre. BREEDERS becomes one of those and I look forward to more from writer Dan Giles’ work. Next up at Faultline is HOW TO BE A WHITE MAN that opens May 16.
FAULTLINE THEATER PRESENTS
By Dan Giles
Directed by Adam Odsess-Rubin
Design by Max Chanowitz and Wes Crain
Through April 29th
144 Taylor Street SF Ca.
90 Minutes no Intermission
7:30 pm Tickets at
Photos by Clive Walker
Sam Bertken, Ryan Hayes, Neil Higgins, and Nikki Meñez
Scenic Design: Max Chanowitz, Costume Design: Wes Crain, Props Design: Hannah Barnard-Henke, Sound Design: Evan Wardell, Lighting Design: Maxx Kurzunski, Dramaturgy: Austin Owen, Joseph Reyes, assistant director, Charlotte Baldiviez, Stage Manager