Review by Peter Foldy
After the “N” word is spray painted onto the home of young Carly Uhlenbeek (Jasmine St. Clair), an African/American girl living in an innocent, all-white community, she gathers her friends from the 7th grade where the kids decide to reenact the crime in order to figure out why this happened.
Twins, Goon and Gandry (Ryan Brophy and Kenney Selvey), Katie (Rori Flynn), Barry (Randolph Thompson) and Shades (Morgan Wilday), hope their efforts will help Carly find answers, and perhaps even track down the perpetrator. The out of touch adults in the community, meanwhile, organize “The Assembly to End Racism Forever,” and invite Carly to give a speech but the last thing this girl wants is to be the center of attention.
As their play within a play unfolds, we also meet Mrs. Apples, a disengaged middle school teacher, Officer Ed, an octane fueled cop, and the hillarious Wikipedia Jones, a junior detective, who has shown up from a nearby town to crack the case.
Playwright David Jacobi covers important territory with his timely tale of racism in small town America, but he also touches our hearts with his exploration of first love and the unbreakable bond between family. Those subplots play almost as compellingly as the main story in Ready, Steady, Yeti, Go, which, incase you were wondering, is the battle cry the characters utter as a cue for a scene change–as well as when they seek to shut down an uncomfortable topic of conversation.
Director Guillermo Cienfuegos keeps the action moving at a clip and the talented cast have ably mastered the body language and the physicallity needed to convincingly portray 12 year olds.
Kenney Selvey delivers an accomplished, charming turn as Gandry, the seemingly assured know-it-all who secretly struggles with self worth and acceptance.
Jasmine St. Clair as Carly pulls at our heart strings as she comes to terms with issues that may follow her for the rest of her life. The character manages to surpress the anger she feels, instead focusing on Carly’s newly found infatuation with Goon, the school’s troublemaker. The chemistry between the young couple is both sweet and appropriately awkward as they navigate pre-teen emotions under their friend’s prying eyes.
Ryan Brophy brings an nascent empathy to the role of Goon, evolving deftly from schoolyard bully to a caring human being. His bond with his often annoying twin feels touching and admirable and Brophy is a strong presence here.
Rori Flynn delivers a fair share of the humor as the posturing, ill-informed Mrs. Apples, as does Randolph Thompson, portraying the orthodontic headgear wearing, smart-ass, Wikipedia Jones.
Morgan Wilday as the introverted Shades provides the soundtrack for the play. She may have little dialogue but her presence is duly noted.
While we eventually discover the culprit, the conclusions and consequences are not black and white. The ambiguity feels more than appropriate here. Both the audience and the characters in the play realize there are no easy solutions to prejudice and hate.
Ready, Steady, Yeti, Go is poignant and humorous. Don’t miss it.
Where: Rogue Machine at the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice
When: 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays, through July 29. Also 7 p.m. Sundays in June, 3 p.m. Sundays in July.
Tickets: $40; $10 and up at the door Friday, June 17 and July 6
Info: (855) 585-5185 or roguemachinetheatre.com
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes