‘A Killing Game’ at dog & pony dc by Ramona Harper

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Can life be sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and everything that’s wonderful when a deadly plague begins killing the citizenry and they start dropping like flies? Will you be next? In an absurdist, party-time approach to death and doom, this award-winning, fun-filled show turns it all into a game that you can play. And play it you will! A Killing Game makes the Grim Reaper a sophisticated lady who, try as she may, can’t shake the merriment out of mortuary mayhem.

Wyckham Avery, Rachel Grossman, Yasmin Tuazon, Jon Reynolds, Karen Lange, and J. Argyle Plath. Photo by S. Stanley Photography.
Wyckham Avery, Rachel Grossman, Yasmin Tuazon, Jon Reynolds, Karen Lange, and J. Argyle Plath. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

How many ways can you have fun pretending to die? Will you try to sanitize it, insulate, fumigate, separate, or just meditate on your own demise? Or will you make CNN-breaking news about it, teaming up with fellow corpses-to-be in a hysterically-funny escapist romp to save your own freakin’ life? The nonsensical makes perfect sense as A Killing Game gets the audience on its feet, in a series of side-splitting game show rounds to side-step our ever-hovering Friend in Black.

Expect to have a great time at A Killing Game or at least fall down dyin’ tryin’. The audience becomes the performers, joining the actors in creating every laughable moment. Just for the heck of it, why not make up your own death and dying scenes. From the looks on the audience’s tickled faces, they even amazed themselves at just how much ham was always there waiting to be freed in death, finally. Sometimes, the audience seems to disappear altogether as the roles of actor and spectator blur and you can’t be sure who’s the real cast and who isn’t! Making the moment more real is the digital invitation to text, tweet or just talk about it. Every character in the program for A Killing Game has a Twitter handle. Turned-on cell phones in this theater are welcome.

The delightful dog & pony dc, an ensemble-based theater company, has mastered the art of acting and improvisation, presenting an audience with new ways of experiencing theater. A Killing Game is almost completely audience interactive and much of the show is made-up as the audience and actors go along. Mr. Showbiz himself, J. Argyl Plath as Mr. Chrome, makes the perfect death-defying game-show host. Jon Reynolds as Mr. Blue has a boyish charm that brings a fresh-faced humor to his wacky characterization, singing “Mr. Blue Sky” with the best voice of the lot. Miss Green, played by Wyckham Avery, is every bit the madcap madam of a kooky house of disaster. Yasmin Tuazon, Miss Pink mimics Dr. Schmidt, doctor of death, in a German accent so convincing, you swear she spent time in Hitler’s bunker prepping for this role. The perky Miss Purple, played by Rachel Grossman, is particularly engaging as she side-bars the audience in personal conversations you aren’t sure are in the play or not. Did she just take your snapshot and really put it on Facebook? And Our Friend in Black, Rebecca Sheir, never utters a word, but plays Ms. Death to the slinky hilt with a Jackie O air of mystery and intrigue complete with dark shades.

A Killing Game won the “Dr. Robert J. Thierauf Producer’s Pick of the Fringe Award” and the League of Cincinnati Theatre’s Award for “Best Use of Improvisation” at the Cincy Fringe Festival 2013. Well deserved!

The most serious question to be answered at the end of an evening of A Killing Game is, “Did you have fun?” This show manipulates the irony of what could be a somber theme and presents the audience with the opportunity for sheer delight. Death where is thy sting? We’re having too much fun here.

Yasmin Tuazon, Rebecca Sheir, and Jon Reynolds. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
Yasmin Tuazon, Rebecca Sheir, and Jon Reynolds. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

The message and the mood of A Killing Game are to just enjoy yourself and make it up as you go along. Might as well be happy and throw your own confetti into the ethers of life. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

Originally developed and scripted by Colin K. Bills, Rachel Grossman, Lorraine Ressegger-Sloane, J. Argyl Plath, Jon Reynolds, Rebecca Sheir, and Gwydion Suilebhan, neither Shakespeare nor King James have anything on A Killing Game. Let the games begin!

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

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A Killing Game plays through October 19, 2013 at dc dog & pony show at Round House Theatre Silver Spring – 8641 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call the box office (240) 644-1100, or purchase them online.