Contributing Critic - Virginia
In my experience, true theatre magic doesn’t come in huge auditoriums or expensive venues. It comes from small rooms or meeting spaces. Such was the case for Craving For Travel presented by Dark Horse Theatre Company. From the moment you enter the venue (a historic church), you are engrossed in a sense of community and love of the theatre. The show follows a hectic day by two rivaling travel agents (once married to each other) and the interactions they have throughout the day. The fun part is that only two actors are on stage, playing the agents and everyone they come in contact with. This leads to hilarity and entertainment for the audience.
Jay Tilley plays Gary, the male travel agent, as well as a host of other characters who interact with Joanne, the female travel agent. Tilley’s character pool has a lot more complexity and variety than his counterparts and he excels at each one. While it would be easy to simply pretend to be a girl or pretend to be foreign and get laughs for it, Tilley however, chooses to really inhabit each one. He gives them different physical ticks and speech patterns that allow the audience to actually believe he’s now playing another character. Tilley relies on a mixture of physical comedy and line delivery to keep the audience in stitches the whole night, both of which he excels at. When a grown man can believably play a 20-something-year-old girl, you know you’re witnessing true talent!
Arianne’ Warner took on the role of Joanna as well as a hodgepodge of other characters. Warner uses a lot of physicality to make her characters come to life and each one does in spectacular fashion. She excelled at inhabiting the body of the character she was playing and this lead to the audience believing her performance and being entertained the whole time. While her characters aren’t as vocally challenging, they are widely different in age range, a task Warner completes with ease. Whether she’s playing a young man or an old woman, she shines in every line. Both her and Tilley had great chemistry with one another and great timing when playing off of one another.
In a show like this, the direction is key. Without it you just have two actors flailing around on stage trying to make jokes land and make the audience feel attached to the show. Natasha Parnian did a truly fantastic job making sure her actors thrived. The choice to have each actor’s characters have one prop or bit of clothing really did wonders to keep the actors grounded to the role and the audience following along. She had minimal yet effective staging that allowed for minimal distractions and maximum sight for the audience. I couldn’t detect one dropped line from the actors or “lost focus” moment, which is also a testament to her direction. Assumingly drilling memory techniques and character exploration into her actors. Her performers were next level, and in my experience, that isn’t done with subpar direction.
Craving For Travel has one more weekend of shows left in The Plains, Va. Ticket info can be found here: https://www.darkhorseva.com/