By Manning Harris

Large Animal Games, the wise, wacky new comedy by Atlanta playwright Steve Yockey, is fun, invigorating, sexy, enlightening, and must be seen.  This may not be easy, because it’s playing at Dad’s Garage in its very intimate Top Shelf theatre and is already starting to sell out, so you must act quickly (as soon as you read this review).  Directly by Melissa Foulger and featuring a top notch cast of seven, it runs through November 29, mainly on weekends.  It’s the fastest one hour and 15 minutes you’ll spend in a theatre this year—guaranteed.  And it’s a great stress-reliever; you’ll stop taking yourself and the  whole human race so seriously.

What’s it about?  Let’s see:  Rose (Erin Burnett) has just returned from a stimulating trip to Spain and has brought with her a super-sexy bullfighter named Miguel (Louis Gregory), who speaks no English.  This is no problem for Rose, but her roommate Valerie is nonplussed.  Valerie (Shannon Byrd), however, has just developed what can only be called an erotic fixation with high-powered rifles (the NRA’s dream citizen) and a desire to shoot large animal game, and is soon off to Kenya.

Then there’s Alicia and Stan (Whitney Millsap and Clint Sowell), engaged to be married.  Alicia’s a glitzy power-shopper and Stan, well—Stan has entered a phase of his young life when he feels compelled to bare personal secrets.  (I was about to post a spoiler alert here; but instead, rest assured, I’ll not tell everything—promise.)

The narrator of the evening is the flamboyant Jimmy (Joe Sykes), who owns a tiny lingerie shop which figures prominently in the play.  Mr. Sykes treads a bit gingerly with his character; he even comments in program notes that he hopes he doesn’t offend anybody.  I don’t get it:  Jimmy, who is quite omniscient and empathetic, should be having more fun than anyone.

Meanwhile, Rose’s girlfriend Nicole (Alison Hastings) discovers the dreamy Miguel, and nature takes its course.  “Nobody’s perfect!” one character comments, and this is a key idea in the play:  The mirrors that we hold up to ourselves and others are usually more self-deceptive than deceiving.  Why not enjoy your uniqueness and your quirks?  Nothing assures more joy in your life than self-acceptance.  Miguel:  “It’s all a game, Nicole; enjoy the sport.”  Oops—he speaks no English.  It’s a mystery (remember Shakespeare in Love?)!

As it progresses, Large Animal Games becomes more and more like a fine Almodovar movie—ever more deliciously manic and loopy.  “It’s a matter of perspective,” says Jimmy.  Director Foulger has a keen sense of  the rollicking pace, and her actors are right with her, carrying us with them.  And somehow, in the midst of all the wackiness in this short play, human truths begin to emerge.

“Give yourself over, and you can become anyone,” says Miguel.  Reinvention and transformation are indeed possible in your life.  But forget about that now; just go.  I may even perform the ultimate horror for a theatre critic:  see it again and pay for my ticket!  See you there.

www.dadsgarage.com

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.