By Tulis McCall

“You must never blame the actors,” John Randolph told me more than once.  When I whispered this to the woman sitting next to me at the conclusion of Thunderbodies, she replied,  “Oh no at all.  I loved the actors.  And the set.”

This pretty much says it all.

I am a fan of Deirdre O’Connell, and her performance here is just another example of her willingness to do anything.  Accept any challenge. Leap off of any roof top.  Here she plays Grotilde Nancy Swan who has complete her task of losing 600 pounds.  There is not much left of interest to her with the exception of getting her son back home.  Son Swan (Matthew Jeffers) refuses to leave his post in the desert, even when he is given a direct order from the Drone Operating President of the United States (Ben Horner).  Exactly why Boy Swan wants to stay is never made clear.  He just does and he is putting his foot down on that.  Besides, from the way everything is arranged on this colorful set, playing war here does look like fun.

But Grotilde is having none of it.  When her love of some years Michail Itterod (Juan Carlos Hernández) begs her to marry him, she has two conditions.  Before she can marry him she must divorce him so that they can skip the step that most people experience.  The divorce party will be on the lawn of the White House and her son MUST be there.  Itterod is tasked with the job of retrieving the son.  This he carries out by going to said desert and disguising himself as a crab.  Have I lost you yet?

An important, but only because she shares the story, fifth character is Girl (Monique St. Cyr) who is wandering the desert because she has no where else to be.  Everything has been destroyed in her life, and in spite of that she is surprisingly good natured.  She and boy become a team, and when transporting is necessary there will be a reservation for 2 on the plane.

Kate Tarker tells us this is the Medieval now.  The place is the Exploded America Home & Abroad.  “Grotesque” is the new word for “cool.”  That is all the help we get.

I understand that this is supposed to satire because that is pretty much drummed into us.  How could it be anything else.  And it is supposed to be funny – the lines indicate this even if the actual staging does not make it so.  But for me, satire is usually connected to some thing.  The satire is played out against some idea of reality, some version or vision of what is passing for normal.  Yes?  No?

There was none of that here.  Just a group of willing actors going through the motion and promising to catch one another as they flew through the air.  They do, and everyone ends safely on their feet.  Why it all happened, and why we sat and watched it – well that is the mystery.

It could all have been played out differently if Boy Swan had reached out and swatted the tiny drone bussing around his head.  I was seriously thinking about doing it myself, but I was in the second row and it was too far to reach.

Thunderbodies – Written by Kate Tarker; Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz

WITH Juan Carlos Hernández, Ben Horner, Matthew Jeffers, Dierdre O’Connell and Monique St. Cyr
Matt Saunders (scenic designer), Oana Botez (costume designer), Yi Zhao (lighting designer), Chad Raines (sound designer), Thomas Schall (fight director)