Kate Crackernuts at the Bloomington Playwrights Project is Sheila Callaghan’s wild, quirky, funny tale of quest and conquest directed by Richard Perez and Phil Kasper. Kate played by the redoubtable Nicole Bruce is out to solve the philosophical quandary or being and becoming. She also has to save a cursed prince played by Mathew Kirkham. And as if this weren’t enough she has to rescue her sister, played by Shelley Engel, from life with a sheep’s head.
Callaghan sets her play in the disjointed and disconnected rave culture. A good bit of the music for Kate Crackernuts is jarringly empty techno-pop. The play’s silent chorus is an energetic group of dancers and acrobats. These sparkle people, are led by the prince’s evil seductress, the sensuous silver haired succubus, Miss Prima, played very enticingly by Danielle Bruce. Miss Prima’s side-kick of sorts was an, a bit too knowledgeable baby played by Kevin Roach.
Mathew Kirkham as the snared prince has a part that though sympathetic, is mostly the pathos of grunts, groans and shakes. Amber Nash was the prince’s compassionate voice. In addition, she did some lovely singing. Bob Risher played both the prince’s wildly gardening mother and his much meeker and more supportive father.
Shelley Engel was Kate’s sister Anne. Anne has been cursed for her vanity by having her head replaced with that of a sheep. And wouldn’t ewe just guess, knowing playwright Callaghan’s sense of humor, that Anne’s sheepish appearance is what snags the affection of the prince’s magnetic male brother, Ralph, played by Brent Burcroff. Irony abounds when Anne’s true head is restored and Ralph nearly takes it on the lamb.
Kate Crackernuts is a organized loosely and episodically, quite an appropriate form for a quest. Naturally Kate finds help from strange sources.
She visits a famous seer only to find him sitting on the toilet clutching a dead blackbird. That was only the beginning of the fun. The audience laughed heartily as Kris Lee did a very funny sendup of a whacked out sort of mini-Merlin.
Another source of enlightenment was Allen Burnett playing a sheep who thinks that he has lost his head. This sheep has wonderful long connected bravura speeches that Burnett delivered with great wit and warmth as he circled the studio space on roller blades, a skate board, a scooter and a bicycle. Burnett’s visits were a hit and he received a couple of ovations.
Following a moldy magician and a loquacious headless sheep, Kate has to get help from a stiff, bossy, club door guard played to bored officious perfection by Jennifer Moeller.
Kate Crackernuts has an almost an Into the Woods sort of ending when we get to see the happy ever after and then have it quickly replaced by a satisfying but grimmer finale.
Kate Crackernuts is funny, it’s also a little risque, and a bit touching. In an interview playwright Sheila Callaghan accuses herself of sometimes being word drunk and having to get the play sobered up. Fortunately, it isn’t too sober to have a good time.