Bailey Preston, Bryce Woodward, & Abby Braune in The Curse of the Blue Moose. Photo: Vidalia Unwin
The Curse of the Blue Moose
By Lex Mitchell & Vidalia Unwin
Directed by Vidalia Unwin
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
If The Ballad of the Night Moose was a hard-boiled police procedural crossed with a comic book aesthetic, then its sequel The Curse of the Blue Moose steps even further into that sci-fi comic book sensibility.
Eight years ago I called Ballad “…entertaining…strange and confounding…”. The Curse of Blue Moose is a much funnier, more tightly written play that draws its zany scenario from contemporary events.
The Ballad of Night Moose was set slightly ahead in time in Chicago 2, a city on the north edge of Nebraska beset by a megalomaniacal criminal until it was destroyed by Night Moose, a mysterious creature imbued with unusual powers.
Today, the city is being rebuilt by Tasker Industries, a Canadian corporation that won the contract by dramatically underbidding. The CEO is Maximum Tasker, an egomaniacal alpha male who blows so far past any definition of toxic masculinity that he is clearly a psychopath.
Maximum Tasker alone makes Curse worth whatever effort went into its creation and Lex Mitchell takes no prisoners in portraying a character that is equal parts Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Ernst Stavros Blofeld. The performance has so much authority that, even though the rest of the cast is strong, it easily dominates the play.
The Tasker facility is filled with manufacturing and laboratories up to no good, and the action is filled with clones, blue formulas, several guns, gender fluidity, and more impossible science than you shake a stick at. An incident demands the remaining three members of the Chicago 2 police force, Bruce Woodwards, Bailey Preston, and Abby Braune, enter to investigate. Once inside, chaos reigns and the building is soon under lockdown while the truth behind the origin of the original super moose is revealed.
That Tasker is Canadian and beset by an infestation of super-powered moose is an example of the more subtle humor at work, but for the most part, Curse shoots the moon for outrageous slapstick and verbal humor. Playwrights Lex Mitchell and Vidalia Unwin exult in the high art of silliness and a kind of go-for-broke satire that is not just unafraid of excess but demands it.
Is there any real point in attempting to assess individual performances in something like this? I love understated playing but that would be criminally out of place here. Still, there it requires skill to play so broadly while still maintaining discipline in what you do. Pros like Josh O’Brien, Abby Braune, and Bryce Woodward find the right balance and exploit their irresistible moments, and Jake Rosenberger somehow achieves actual dignity as “Chupie”, a chupacabra adopted by Tasker and dressed in the most outrageous costume of the evening (and that’s saying something!).
But Michael Guarnieri is excellent as a comic villain and improbably romantic Slavic Wrangler who is Max Tasker’s muscle/assassin, and Fløren X is delightedly animatronic as Box, a hybrid computer/dead Canuck who both hinders and helps the people trying to prevent/survive a moose apocalypse.
The design work is so determinedly bargain basement, reinforcing the ramshackle facade of the sturdy scenario. Cardboard and paint rule the day, and spray bottles of fake blood so Maximum may, “…bathe in the blood of my enemies…” each morning. It somehow would feel wrong if Blue Moose had luxurious production. The costumes are less DIY, suitably earnest when required, but mostly as ridiculous as demanded.
The Curse of Blue Moose may not be to everyone’s taste, but fans of absurdist humor will find a beachhead. Yet the satire is sharp and clear, so there are brains at the source of the silliness. Seriously.
And all signs point to the possibility of a third chapter in the moose saga. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another eight years.
Featuring Abby Braune, Fallon Crowley, Nicole Greenwood, Michael Guarnieri, Fløren X, Lex Mitchell, Josh O’Brien, Bailey Preston, Jake Rosenberger, & Bryce Woodward
The Curse of the Blue Moose
May 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, & 22 @ 7:30 pm
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.