Omnivores: Definitely Not a Turkey


If you have been following the career of playwright Ben Clawson (Montclair State ’07), as we have, you can’t help but come away from his latest, “Omnivores,” with the feeling: this boy is growing up.
“Omnivores,” a Strange Dog Theatre production at Playwrights Theater in Madison, is an ambitious attempt to overlay unresolved family conflicts on a ripped-from-the-headlines event — a woman grievously injured when a teen prankster drops a frozen turkey from a highway bridge onto her passing car.
Clawson is at his best when he’s being wise-crackingly funny. When he digs into the family conflicts, he stays a bit on the surface, though as someone raised to believe the wisecrack is the highest form of human expression, it’s a bit hard for me to complain.

The production is well served by director Artem Yatsunov’s pacing and the work of his four-man cast.

The heart of the play is the lifelong conflict between brothers. Cole Mitchell (Joseph Palestina) is an unhappy community college adjunct professor. His brother Clyde (Brian Parks) is a construction worker bristling with resentments.

Parks gives Clyde an anti-intellectual intelligence that makes him a magnetic presence. Palestina’s Cole plays the Clawson patter very well, though he sometimes looks uncomfortable. There’s a line between playing uncomfortable and being uncomfortable, and Palestina sometimes crosses it.
Scott Cagney, who specializes in doofuses overwhelmed by their circumstances, turns in a strong performance as the terrorized prankster Louis, dripping in bodily fluids. Thom Molyneaux is a riot as the brothers’ Uncle Nutsy, who embraces his status as the family primitive.
And we have to mention the set, a well-executed grimy cabin in the woods.
Is it worth driving all the way to Madison? Yes. Despite its humor, “Omnivores,” Clawson’s most ambitious play to date, never gives its audience a rest. But then, plays in which a gun appears during the first act so rarely do.
“Omnivores” continues through next weekend, with 8 pm performances tonight (Friday, 11/4) and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday (11/10-12). This Saturday (11/5) is College Night, with free pizza at intermission and a 10 pm curtain. For more information, go to the Strange Dog website.

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  1. Great to see this hard-working crew getting due praise.
    I look forward to catching the new production this week.

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