2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Petunia and Chicken’

I have never started a Fringe with such joy.

The cause of that joy is kids’-show-in-disguise Petunia and Chicken, the brainchild of Animal Engine (husband and wife team Carrie Brown and Karim Muasher), a physical devised theatre ensemble based in New York City.

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Directed by Melinda Jean Ferraraccio, the show has been touring to what looks like tremendous acclaim at Fringes and schools nationwide (but debuting in DC this summer) since 2013.

Based on the writings of Willa Cather, this tiny play with huge heart is the story of Petunia, a Czech immigrant who settles on “the divide” of the Nebraska prairie with her family at the turn of the century, and Chicken, the boy who lives across the street, and of how they fall in love, then out of it, and have adventures.

I say “kids’ show in disguise” above, because the real brilliance and fun of the show lies in its simplicity. There is no set, the bare minimum in lighting, and the two actors play all of each other’s set pieces and props except for a scarf and a hat. This leaves nearly everything to the imagination. It’s a testament to Brown and Muasher’s talent and creativity that they can do everything with nothing but passion, love, and an empty playing space. Even with nothing but the two actors, the story is beautiful and vivid. Be ready.

Without spoiling anything, you can also expect traditional rural American folk songs, rapid-fire character changes – between them they play every character in the show, plus animals and several inanimate objects (such as a record player and a telegraph, played equally vividly and charmingly by Brown) – and clever use of spoons, which Muasher is very good at playing.

Come to Petunia and Chicken prepared to laugh, to cry, to open your imagination and your heart because this is a heartfelt and charming gem that will delight theatre goers of all ages.

Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.

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Petunia and Chicken is playing through July 21, 2016 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue – 600 I St NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.


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Emily Gilson makes art. A DC-based actor, rescue kitty mommy, historian, and professional Christmas caroler, she loves all things nerdy, British, chocolately, and caffeinated, and moonlights as a front-of -house staff person and walking tour manager at Ford’s Theatre when not creating things. A native Washingtonian, Emily holds a double BA in Drama Studies and Medieval History and Literature from Purchase College, SUNY, has studied with the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and the Theatre Lab, and is a 2012 alumna of the Overtures musical theatre intensive at Signature Theatre. 2015 will mark her 3rd season as a company member with 42nd Street Singers, a costumed caroling group comprised of local musical theatre and opera talent. She thinks it would be awesome to be able to time travel and is entirely unashamed of having seen 'Phantom of the Opera' – the first show she ever saw - roughly once every decade. www.emilygilsonactor.com


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