Review: Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF): ‘Wild Horses’

Last year there was Not Medea; this year there is Wild Horses, Allison Gregory’s rollicking one-woman ride through a 13-year-old’s adventures in horse country.

Kate Udall. Photo by Seth Freeman.

Though structurally not as well defined as Medea, Horses is made wild and engaging by one Kate Udall, a dynamic, charismatic performer who’s every bit the “girl” bursting inside a woman’s body.

Intimate and personal, Ms. Udall looks her audience in the eye, and they will never forget her for it. By the end of the show, you’ll feel like you’ve just met the most interesting person: she came into your life for an instant and then disappeared, and you’re left wondering what she’s up to now.

Kate Udall. Photo by Seth Freeman.

Director Courtney Sale, who also directed Not Medea, has elected to set Wild Horses in an outdoor food court, with a real, functioning food truck parked upstage. Set and Costume Designer Jesse Dreikosen has created the world down to the last detail, with the milk-crate seats taking the prize for the most interesting chairs anywhere. John Ambrosome and David Remedios provide the lights and sound.

And, yes, you can buy yourself a soda and maybe even a tasty treat right on stage before the show.

The audience sits on three sides and on the stage. Ms. Udall, as Woman, weaves in and among the crowd revealing her wild ride through puberty. We’re never quite sure why she’s telling us this tale, but Ms. Udall makes us not really care. We love her all the same.

Three girls, full of junior high misadventure, explore what it means to be naughty, dangerous, and without high-level executive functioning skills. If only boys grew out of this stage by age 15, all parents would rest a lot sounder.

Though not explicit in the text, from the get-go this script appeals to the parent of or from a reckless youth.

Exciting and full of verve, dark clouds are never far away: will these young souls survive their poking of the tiger? Will they walk away uninjured by their climbing of the wall?

Does that dead and bloated horse foreshadow something horrible just about to happen?

Kate Udall. Photo by Seth Freeman.

Gregory’s stories, as embodied by Ms. Udall, keep us loving every second and not wanting to consider the possible consequences.

And that is, after all, the meaning of youth: excited by the moment and avoiding the consequences at all cost.

Wild Horses is a tasty treat indeed.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Wild Horses and The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) continue through July 30, 2017. Tickets to CATF and for Wild Horses can be purchased through the Theater Festival Box Office, by calling (800) 999-CATF (2283), or by purchasing them online.

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Robert Michael Oliver
Poet, Performer, Theatre Artist, Playwright, Educator, Writer--Robert Michael Oliver, Ph.D., has been involved in the DC arts scene since the 1980s, when he co-founded The Sanctuary Theatre in the old sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church. Since those fierce days in Columbia Heights, he has earned his doctorate in theatre from University of Maryland, raised two wonderful children, and seen more theatre as a reviewer over the last two years than he saw in the previous thirty. He now co-directs, along with his wife Elizabeth Bruce, the Sanctuary's Performing Knowledge Project, which organizes a host of writing and performance workshops, plus Mementos: Poetry and Performance for Seniors, a yearly literature-in-performance Fringe Festival show, as well as Performetry--a monthly poetry and prose performance event at DC's community arts & culture center BloomBars.


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