Know Theatre of Cincinnati evidently agrees with this reviewer: it’s officially autumn, so it’s time to switch to spooky-mode with Monsters of the American Cinema by Christian St. Croix. Described as a story of “fathers and sons, race and queerness, and the monster inside us all,” this show is not necessarily what you’d expect.
The Production Team for Monsters
Directed expertly by Tamara Winters, the audience is thrust into the lives of Remy, a widow who has taken the helm of his late husband’s drive-in movie theatre, and Pup, Remy’s now teenaged stepson. Set in beautiful Southern California against the backdrop of classic monster films (the nostalgia was so real for me!), the characters often break into soliloquy to give us background while the present happenings are told as they unfold. It’s a terribly intriguing script with some sharp dialogue and Ms. Winters expertly weaves all the pieces together with a strong pace. There are no lulls in this show!
It should come as no surprise that the crew for this show came to play. Projections by Sound & Projection Designer Douglas Borntrager are well executed and add beautifully to the mood of each scene. Matching wits with Mr. Borntrager is, of course, Scenic & Lighting Designer Andrew Hungerford (in his 10th year as Artistic Director – congrats!). Mr. Hungerford’s lighting choices once again help set the mood and enhance all other aspects of the stage aesthetic.
The Performing Artists
A two-person show can be a bit of a tall order for everyone involved. Fortunately, Ms. Winters has chosen two more-than-capable actors to keep the audience’s interest. Newcomer to the Know Mainstage, Grant Zentmeyer plays Pup, the young man who lost his father expectedly. He seems to have a love/hate relationship with monsters. While both a fan of film and an aspiring film-maker, Pup is still simply a teenager going to homecoming and dealing with how a pretty smile of a “friend” can render one helpless. Xavier alum Mr. Zentmeyer offers incredible stage presence and the exceptional physicality his character requires (no spoilers – just pay attention and trust me on this one). He definitely is “one to watch” on Cincinnati stages.
And then there is Andrew Ian Adams as Remy, a widower struggling to balance management of the drive-in and raising a teenager. I can confidently say this is one the best roles I have ever seen Mr. Adams tackle. It feels like it is written for him. His words come easily and from the heart, his range of emotions is practically limitless, and you will find yourself wishing you had a friend like Remy. It remains a joy to see Mr. Adams grace any stage.
While I ran to this show due to a love of old monster films and just about anything spooky-related, you don’t have to be a fan of those to appreciate this show. The direction is killer, the aesthetics are chilling, and the actors slay. (Sorry – had to do it.) Some of the struggles are specific, but relatable in many ways. It isn’t easy to surprise someone who sees a lot of theatre, but this show certainly does just that.
On a related note, LCT sends best wishes to Tamara Winters who is leaving her post as Associate Artistic Director of Know Theatre effective September 30. She will continue to direct in the area as time allows, but will now be extending her incredible talent to the Artistic Fundraising Group. We shall miss her face at Know, but wish her every imaginable happiness!
In the meantime, support Tamara’s latest artistic endeavor at Know Theatre of Cincinnati: Monsters of the American Cinema runs now through October 8. Tickets can be purchased here.