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Descent Into Madness: Browncoat appeals to comic-book fans with ‘Gallery’

“Gallery” follows prisoners released from Arkham Asylum, wherein everyone but five are freed. Ross Helton as Edward Nigma, Patrick Basquill as Dr. Jonathan Crane, Alissa Fetherolf as Dr. Pamela Isley, Jacob Keohane as Harvey Dent, and Phill Antonino as Joker must find out who was released and why. Once a caped crusader appears in the mix, each character faces his and her descent into madness by trying to escape but realizing each could very well be trapped in the asylum forever.

"Gallery" follows prisoners released from Arkham Asylum, wherein everyone but five are freed. Ross Helton as Edward Nigma, Patrick Basquill as Dr. Jonathan Crane, Alissa Fetherolf as Dr. Pamela Isley, Jacob Keohane as Harvey Dent, and Phill Antonino as Joker must find out who was released and why. Once a caped crusader appears in the mix, each character faces his and her descent into madness by trying to escape but realizing each could very well be trapped in the asylum forever.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS: Patrick Basquill stars as Dr. Jonathan Crane in “Gallery,” a show where its characters face a descent into madness. Photo by Ethan M. Sigmon

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: Patrick Basquill stars as Dr. Jonathan Crane in “Gallery,” a show where its characters face a descent into madness. Photo by Ethan M. Sigmon

Browncoat Pub and Theatre will appeal to fans of original script-writing, as well as comic-book nerds this weekend as they kick off their 2014 year of productions with “Gallery.” Written by an undergraduate student CJ Tour, “Gallery” actually landed at UNCW thanks to a professor who brought it to UNCW’s STAGE Company. They produced the show in the fall of 2013 as part of

“A Night of One Acts,” sandwiched between staged readings and “Much Ado About Nothing.” However, in the hands of director Caleb Ward, “Gallery” will see its full debut at Browncoat on opening night, January 9th.

The plot follows prisoners released from Arkham Asylum, wherein everyone but five are freed. Ross Helton as Edward Nigma, Patrick Basquill as Dr. Jonathan Crane, Alissa Fetherolf as Dr. Pamela Isley, Jacob Keohane as Harvey Dent, and Phill Antonino as Joker must find out who was released and why. Once a caped crusader appears in the mix, each character faces his and her descent into madness by trying to escape but realizing each could very well be trapped in the asylum forever.

“If you like the Batman universe, then you’re sure to love this play,” Ward assures. As it turns out, writer CJ Tour is quite the fan of comics, which, according to Ward, comes through superbly in the writing.

“This show is for everyone, though,” Ward says, “comic book fans, ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy fans, the 1960’s show, or even the Burton/Schumacher series fans.”
We spoke more with Ward about “Gallery” and what to expect of the show.

encore (e): Tell me about “Gallery”—its premise, themes and what drew you to it as a director.
Caleb Ward (CW): “Gallery” is about fear and the amount of control it has on our lives. When we allow our deepest and darkest secrets to take control of what we are, then that takes the human condition to a much deeper place.

These five characters were all once very much human, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, have been brought to the place where they reside. As each character pines after the one object that makes them who they truly are, I see them almost as transgender. In a transgendered mindset, the individual never feels like himself or herself until their outward appearance fully matches whom they are inside, and so the main goal of the play is for each character to find their true selves before it is too late.

I was drawn to this project as a huge fan of the Batman franchise as a whole. I think the DC comic world is a fascinating one that can be just as grounded in reality and then moments later take you to an almost impossible world. These characters all have very human characteristics making the show quite relatable. I don’t have time to work on creative projects that don’t interest me and this show is quite contrary to that. I have freely given my time to this, because I know the actors involved and the team behind the scenes put forth all they have to create an almost cinematic theatrical experience for the audience.

e: Tell me about some of the characters, their personality traits and the dynamic between each. Are you pleased with how they’re being fleshed out?
CW: Each character in “Gallery” is a villain so, how do you do a show where everyone is an antagonist? By realizing that even antagonists have antagonists. It’s a vicious cycle. Every moment in “Gallery” is a place of heightened emotions. Will they escape Arkham? If so, then what shape will they be in? Who really has the upper hand? The person with the upper hand is always shifting and changing the show. It’s almost impossible to know how it’s going to end.

e: What’s been the greatest challenge to face in this production? What have you learned from it?
CW: We had about four-and-a-half weeks (minus a week for Christmas) to cast, rehearse, build sets, do make-up, get costuming, and promote the show. That’s the first time I have ever had to do that, which at times was a challenge. Overall, it has been a pleasant experience from start to finish. Having two cast members also designing the set made working together as a group an even better experience. Ross Helton and Jacob Keohane designed and built the set in a matter of a couple weeks and it looks fantastic. I couldn’t be more proud of the work they have done transforming such a small and intimate theatre into a terrifying asylum.

Tini and Blake Howard have done a brilliant job with costuming and make-up. Realistic effects on Harvey, Joker, and Pam was one thing I didn’t want to slack off on, and they certainly haven’t slacked by any means.

e: How is the set a factor in the play, if at all?
CW: The set is a living, breathing character in “Gallery.” It takes place in only one room and so that room must consistently be a presence of claustrophobia and a warning of what’s to come. The walls are much higher than any other Browncoat show and this is done with a purpose. I want it to look as if Arkham Asylum is swallowing up the characters.

e: Is this a comedy, tragedy, drama … all of the above?
CW: I’d have to define “Gallery” as a dark comedy. Yes, there are moments of hilarity, but they are not to be outweighed by the moments of sheer terror the audience is going to experience as the tensions rise and the five villains wish to leave the asylum. It’s definitely not for the younger Batman crowd; it’s an 18-plus show, by all means. There [is] some language and [it has] adult themes that I wouldn’t expose to younger fans. The realism is shocking and at times uncomfortable, but that just makes for a better show.

DETAILS:
Gallery
Thurs. – Sun., Jan 9th – 12th, 16th – 19th; 8 p.m. or Sun., 5 p.m.
Tickets: $10-$15
Browncoat Pub and Theatre
111 Grace Street
www.browncoattheatre.com

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