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“Ponzi” headlines Kitchen Dog Theater’s 2011 New Works Festival

Kitchen Dog Theater’s 20th season has captured the attention of audiences with stories of “Betrayal,” “Charm,” power-hungry couples (“Macbeth”) and dramatic family situations (“3 Foote”).

In many ways, “Ponzi” should be the perfect capstone for such an interesting, diverse season.  With a classic plotline of deception and greed told in a modern setting with a progressive use of multimedia, this play was directed by the talented Chris Carlos and has a KDT company member cast of Christina Vela, Max Hartman and Diane Casey-Box.

This world premiere had the elements to bring a successful season full circle. Instead, takes the audience for a ride.

It is the story of Catherine (Vela), an heiress who finds herself entangled in an affair with a self-made man Bryce (Hartman), a friendship with his wife Allison (Casey-Box) and the victim of a shady financier’s fraud.

Christina Vela, Max Hartman and Diane Casey-Box star in the world premiere of "Ponzi" on stage at Kitchen Dog Theater through June 25.

Elaine Romero’s script is poetic and contains eloquence worthy of praise, but focuses almost entirely on the character of Catherine. Bryce, whose actions turn out to be the most surprising is given almost no development. And Allison is written as the play’s fop, but in this lopsided script she seems to be nothing more than a caricature of a hot, crass trophy wife.

This uneven script gives the actors an immediate stumbling block, which is met with overacted, underwhelming performances on nearly all fronts.

Vela, recently seen in the same theater as a gripping Lady Macbeth, plays the manipulative, sensual character of Catherine fails to find the balance between melancholy and malice favoring the despondent – a choice that inhibited any growth throughout the 100 minute show. But the fact that Vela was able to find anything consistent in the self-contradictory character Romero has written is impressive in its own right.

Casey-Box gave the most interesting performance as she struggled to find the sincerity in her oafish character.  Her energetic performance ranged from adorable to squirrel-like.

Hartman’s biggest challenge was that of remaining interested in Catherine’s lengthy monologues and finding a way to make his revelation concerning his actions believable. In the former he succeeded; the failure to do the latter appear to be hampered by the script in which his character does nothing but spit out one-liners.

The design elements of the play are trendy, adding to the jumbled script in a very modern, hip way. Tarot cards that mirrored the plot were projected onto the backdrop, serving as sort of summaries of the scenes that were to follow.

“Ponzi” is the headliner in Kitchen Dog Theater’s New Works Festival that contains six staged readings along with Pup Fest, staged readings by high school playwrights. These readings take place throughout the month of June and all staged readings are free for subscribers and Pup Fest is free for everyone.

Check out KDT's staged readings throughout the month of June.

by Lia Romeo
Saturday, June 4 at 1pm

High school misfit Amy struggles to fit in at home and at school, dealing with weight issues, boy problems, and her parents' troubled marriage. When a minotaur unexpectedly appears in her backyard, she finds support from a very unlikely source ... but being best friends with a man-eating mythological beast has its difficulties.
Directed by TBD

by Jason Grote
Saturday, June 4 at 4pm

There are guests, there are hosts, and there is dinner -- and sometimes they switch places. In CIVILIZATION
(ALL YOU CAN EAT), six ambitious Americans and one giant hog let their appetites get the better of them.
Directed by KDT Artistic Company Member Jonathan Taylor

by Bill Cain
Sunday, June 5 at 7pm

In Bill Cain's 2011 Steinberg New Play Award winning 9 CIRCLES, an American soldier accused of crimes committed in Iraq wends his way through a series of encounters that lead him to discover his ultimate humanity.
Directed by KDT Artistic Company Member Cameron Cobb

by Yussef El Guindi
Saturday, June 18 at 1pm

When four die hard peace activists gather in an apartment to plan a weekend peace camp of Palestinian and Israeli kids, certain personal revelations threaten to blow up into a full-out war between them. A funny, sexy, irreverent take on just what it takes to make peace when you're at war with the one you love.
Directed by Alex Organ

by Joseph Fisher
Saturday, June 18 at 4pm

In a failing public high school, a troubled sixteen year old girl and a history teacher on the verge of a breakdown find comfort in each other's odd sense of humor and a shared desire to free themselves of the past.
Directed by KDT Artistic Company Member Lee Trull

by Lauren Gunderson
Sunday, June 19 @ 7pm

EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR is a hilarious revenge comedy based on one violent stage direction. Part "I Love Lucy", part Jacobean revenge tragedy, part nature special, and part feminist power ballad set in the North Georgia mountains - EXIT is not over till the bears are in pursuit.
Directed by KDT Artistic Company Member Sally Nystuen-Vahle