Deal with the Dragon. Written and Performed by Kevin Rolston. Directed by M. Graham Smith. New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94102.
A newly revised version of Kevin Rolston’s critically acclaimed Deal with the Dragon will delight audiences at NCTC prior to its scheduled New York premiere. This sophisticated adult fairy tale has already had runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, ACT Costume Shop, Z Space and TheatreWorks Silicon Valley to enthusiastic praise, and for good reason. Rolston’s script, his excellent delivery combined with M. Graham Smith’s lovely direction make for a thrilling ride.
Deal with the Dragon is a clever imagining of a modern fairy-tale, this one however, while embracing the archetypal dark side, does not have a requisite happy ending. The story revolves around two struggling artists, Gandhi Schwarz and Hunter, both competing for a lucrative artist’s residency at MOMA. Hunter is being supported by Brenn, a Black Forest guardian who will do anything to fulfill his wards wishes. Seems Brenn is a fire breathing dragon/devil, summoned by Hunter centuries ago to protect him from his abusive father. His character might be thinly veiled ribbing on a darker gay stereotype. Rolston is amazing as he shifts seamlessly from character to character; his body, facial and vocal inflections denoting who’s speaking.
Brenn meddles in Hunter’s affairs, and when he exceeds his boundaries, Hunter breaks the ‘deal with the dragon’ and his life path changes dramatically. Brenn, moves onto to his next logical choice, Gandhi, a self-absorbed, drug and alcohol addled bitter queen. There’s a brilliant speech delivered by Gandhi at an AA meeting where he spills his guts in an emotional confessional. He says blithely that “we all cut our deals” and his later alignment with Brenn, becomes a co-joining of evil equals.
Rolston is a fine actor and delivers a riveting performance. Sara Huddleston adds some creepy sound effects and Aya Matsutomo’s lighting is subtle and dramatic. Rolston deals with his topics of struggling artists and satanic pacts with a deftness that slowly draws you in. His Faustian tale includes elements of Disney’s Maleficent and gay camp, ultimately becoming a tale of our ability to break free of self-destructive constraints.
Performances run through December 3, 2017 www.nctcsf.org 415. 863.8972