Imagine the pandemonium: Dinosaurs have woken from 65 million years of slumber in the small town of New Kensington and are, understandably, in need of a snack. While the mighty lizards smash and grab their way through town, three thirty-something friends take cover at slacker Pete’s place and wait for it all to blow over. Such is the premise of Alexander V. Thompson’s new play, Pete Rex, now showing at 59E59 Theaters.
That is, at least, the premise of the first half of the play. The first half flies by as best buds Pete and Bo, and Pete’s ex-girlfriend, Julie, debate hunkering down versus fleeing for their lives. Julie thinks it’s time to move. Pete and Bo aren’t that sure it isn’t all just the best practical joke they’ve ever seen.
The title is Pete Rex, and he really does. Pete wrecks his relationship. Pete wrecks his friendship. Pete wrecks the best opportunity he has for his continuing education. The question we have to ask is why. That is the questions whose knot of answers metaphorically unravels in the play’s significantly more introspective—albeit emotionally muddy—second half.
Rosie Sowain and Greg Carere
Where psychological clarity is missing, what we do get is a punky, British-accented T-Rex named Nero. Really, there are worse inner demons. Greg Carere, Simon Winheld, and Rosie Sowain play the trio of Pete, Bo, and Julie, respectively. (Winheld spends the second act as the affable but unpredictable short-armed surprise guest.) If there are any faults to their performances it might be that they don’t appear to be quite as affected by events and actions as one would expect. But then, who knows how they would act when faced with a posh prehistoric predator in their living room?
Director Brad Raimondo pulls a few fun tricks out of his sleeve to shift into flashback, and the overall feel of the first act is a little like a funnier and significantly less bloody (onstage) Dawn of the Dead. Tempers flare and people make poor choices when the pressure is on. Life or death choices, actually. And it doesn’t work out well for everyone. But it’s so amusing to watch them try.
Pete Rex has a great sense of humor and a solid heart. Where the cracks start to show is in defining the main plot device in the second act. At different times it means different things: Is it Pete’s immaturity? Toxic masculinity? White male entitlement? Childhood trauma? Bullying? Chronic indecision? What we can do is bundle up all of those issues under one overarching but vague heading—emotional dysfunction—and just hope Pete can get his act together enough to break his patterns and crawl out of the rut he’s dug for himself. Maybe it isn’t too late for a happily ever after.
Photos by Hugh Mackey
Top: L-R: Rosie Sowain and Greg Carere
Written by Alexander V. Thompson, directed by Brad Raimondo
Produced by The Dreamscape Theatre
Showing through Saturday, March 3, 2018