Washington Ensemble Theater TIN CAT SHOES

Rachel Guyer-Mafune, Gloria Alcala,
Mario Orallo-Molinaro and Kiki Abba in
Tin Cat Shoes of the Washington Ensemble Theatre.
Photo credit: Stephen Anunson

Dear readers, do you remember Mad Libs when we were kids? That little puzzle book where you asked a group for random items in order to complete a story. And remember how when we were getting the end result, we were laughing and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all? Have you ever tried reading them? They’re not that funny. Now imagine reading them for 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Washington Ensemble Theater’s current show, “Tin Cat Shoes,” seems like it was written by a series of Mad Libs because it’s a hodgepodge of ridiculous elements maniacally mixed together for 90 minutes and the awkward laughs that ‘he might have sparked from the start of the show quickly faded.

Let me try to explain the story. I say “try” because there aren’t really any. We have a group of super-enthusiastic shoe store employees, Gemma, Pepper, Cheddar and Lunch (Gloria Alcalá, Kiki Abba, Rachel Guyer-Mafune and Mario Orallo-Molinaro), at Tin Cat Shoes. From the start, the store seems to be run in the messiest way as employees pack shoes left in a pile on the floor. While doing this, they share stories with the new person, Gemma. Enter their equally enthusiastic manager Rex (Drew Highlands) who announces that instead of staying at the store to receive the hot new shoe shipment, they’re all going camping in the woods like a crazed scout troop. There they encounter a bear who kills one of them. Or maybe not, they can’t decide. Then they argue to call for help and end up ending up in a casino.

If you’re confused, then you’re exactly where I was last night. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand what they were trying to convey, but it turned out that this play had no story, no plot, no character development or arc, and no conclusion. Crazy, tangential things happened and then it was over. It was like someone told playwright Trish Harnetiaux that the funniest show was “Seinfeld” (a show that I don’t find funny by the way) because it was about nothing and a said he could never be outdone, at which point Harnetiaux said, “Hold my beer”.

To make matters worse, it all came from a company I love, actors I love, and a director (Maggie L. Rogers) I love. I’ve seen so much better with them. But even Rogers’ generally solid direction seemed chaotic as the pace was uneven and jerky. And the performances were all so consistent that there was nowhere to go for any of them. They all started at 11 and have never faltered. And nonsense at 11 is still nonsense.

Honestly the best thing I can say about the show is that the set and costumes by Parmida Ziaei and Michael Notestine were quite colorful and fun to watch. But it wasn’t enough. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Washington Ensemble Theater’s production of “Tin Cat Shoes” a “what did I just watch?” NOPE. With no story to capture or message they were trying to convey, I just couldn’t find the point of being there.

Washington Ensemble Theater’s “Tin Cat Shoes” performs at 12th Ave Arts through May 2. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.washingtonensemble.org.


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