Theatre Review: “Riding the Bull”
TheatreLAB, a very hip and emerging collaborative theatre group, offers up “Riding the Bull” by August Schulenburg as their first contribution to the Acts of Faith Festival, and let me tell you it is not a play you’ll soon forget. Stunningly directed by local actress turned director, Sarah Roquemore, this two-person dark comedy pulls the audience’s emotions in every direction; you’re happy, sad, scared, and disgusted all at once. Deejay Gray plays GL Mitchell, a sex obsessed and very religious rodeo clown who begins a sexual relationship with Lyza Mary or “Fat Lyza” played by Maggie Bavolack, who he initially can’t stand and ridicules.
Lyza convinces GL that he should start illegal gambling and they make a lot of money, very quickly. As their fortune accumulates, Lyza starts to feel like she’s being used by GL and realizes she can’t continue the relationship because she loves him more than he loves her. Without GL around Lyza clings to her best friend, Cyndi the cow, for comfort and also finds solace in Christianity. GL then turns to some very unsavory behavior to try to convince Lyza that she needs him and hopes to shake her new found faith.
The play highlights all seven deadly sins at one point, which I found to be a quite fascinating inclusion on the part of Schulenburg, and possibly not something that everyone would pick up on. Gray and Bavolack are amazingly talented and I can’t wait to see more from them. They took on a very challenging play technically and emotionally and just rocked it. Both actors hook you right from the beginning and GL’s character actually talks to the audience almost like he’s being interviewed which increases the audience connection with his character. As “Riding” is a play with only two actors, it was really cool to see how the actors and director made it feel like an ensemble cast, and really brought the supporting characters to life in the audience’s imagination.
The set by McLean Jesse is very minimal and clean looking, comprised of just some hay bales, branches, sawhorses, and planks of wood. I really liked the backdrop of the light colors of the hay and wood against the gray of the floor at Gallery 5, and there was a beautiful chandelier made of branches that honestly I would to have hanging in my own place.
By the time this review runs, the show will have moved down to Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg for two more encore performances, so try to get down there this weekend!
There will be two more performances at Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg , March 22nd and 23rd at 8pm.
www.sycamorerouge.org for information
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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