CNY Playhouse’s “Reservoir Dogs” is an adaptation loaded with plenty of bite

 Mr. White (James Uva) consoles Mr. Orange (Jordan Glaski) as they wait for help to arrive. Photo by Amelia Beamish

Mr. White (James Uva) consoles Mr. Orange (Jordan Glaski) as they wait for help to arrive. Photo by Amelia Beamish

Reservoir Dogs

Who: CNY Playhouse

Where: 3649 Erie Blvd E., Syracuse, NY

When: Through November 9th

Tickets: $15-$20

Review by Nick Reichert

Hollywood and Broadway are so constantly exchanging source material, it is hard to determine whether a play originated on the silver screen or if a movie was transported to the stage. It’s a creative foray that could result in treacherous territory. For every Lion King, Once or The Producers there are duds like Big Fish and Spider-Man.

The Central New York Playhouse’s most recent venture into the cinematic transfer is the gory and vitriolic world of Quentin Tarantino. Known for his use of sharp dialogue and even sharper violence, Tarantino’s 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs has been given the theatrical treatment. Fortunately for the audience and for Tarantino’s original film, CNY Playhouse hauls in a hell of a heist filled with bullets, blood and bravado.

J. Brazill’s adaptation keeps all of Tarantino’s touches intact only adjusting the order of the plot for dramatic effect. All of the essential components are present: the debate on tipping waitresses, the claustrophobic warehouse, and those dark suits and cool shades. Brazill let’s Tarantino’s words do all of the heavy lifting. The language lingers like floating cigarette smoke and will stay with you throughout the evening.

Depicting a group of professional criminals attempting to rob a jewel repository, Reservior Dogs presents how easy money evaporates into pressurized desperation and violence. All the men are criminals except Mr. Orange who is an undercover cop. The play and film omit the actual heist and what remains is the bonding and playful planning phase and the bloody aftermath that results from Mr. Orange’s betrayal.

The real challenge belongs to the actors. Because of searing original cinematic performances by Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen, the performers could have easily have fallen into caricatures of the criminals in the film.

A stand off ensues at the warehouse with CNYP's Reservoir Dog Cast. Photo by Amelia Beamish

A stand off ensues at the warehouse with CNYP’s Reservoir Dog Cast. Photo by Amelia Beamish

But the chromatic cohort of Mr. White (Jim Uva), Mr. Pink (Dan Rowlands), Mr. Orange (Jordan Glaski), Mr. Blonde (Andrew Brazill), Mr. Brown (Navroz N. Dabu), Mr. Blue (Gabriel Infantino), and father and son Joe Cabot (John Brackett) and “Nice Guy” Eddie (Joel Miscione) are built with the essential ingredient needed for this production: balls.

Not once is there a hint of the performances from the film present in the ensemble’s portrayal of this diamond heist gone horribly awry. If Uva, Rowlands, Glaski and Brazill had simply impersonated their silver-screened counterparts, then the play would have been a bad rerun. But the boys pulled out the gravitas, and stood as nicotine beacons of masculine individuality.

Uva and Rowlands impress as the antagonistic Mr. White and Mr. Pink. Their collective pacing and arguing through the majority of the warehouse scenes are fiery and combustible. Uva and Rowlands are two boxers in top form and clash in the ring of the stage.

In the tight confines of the CNY Playhouse’s space, the technical scene transitions were sometimes frustrating and occasionally unnecessary (strobe lights). But when the iconic moments from the movie arrived, it was a joyous moment for any Tarantino fan. The opening diner scene looked like a radiant and perverse “Last Supper.” The heated standoff between Mr. White and Mr. Pink, nervously looking down the barrel of their guns, is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s “Sistine Chapel” when God stretches down his divine finger towards Adam’s hand.

By no means is this play a rebirth of art or culture, but it is a celebration. For any fan of Tarantino’s maiden-voyage movie, it’ll be like seeing an old friend in the flesh. And for everyone else? It’s high dramatics dressed in base language. A chamber play ,reminiscent of the lethal literate dramas of David Mamet, with barrels locked, loaded and ready to go.

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