These dolls bite
Blue Room’s Reservoir Dogs adaptation lives up to the hype
Chico, CA 95928
As the audience exited the Blue Room Theatre Saturday night for intermission, a young woman lay in a growing pool of blood seeping from the front of her blouse. By the time everyone returned to their seats some 20 minutes later and the houselights flashed for Reservoir Dolls to resume, the blood puddle had lengthened and begun trickling down the edge of the platform upon which “Ms. Orange” still rested.
The acts preceding this gory scene closely resemble the Quentin Tarantino pulp-noir screenplay of Reservoir Dogs, thick with stylized, witty dialogue and prolific use of expletives—which has been adapted here by Erika Soerensen (who also stars as Ms. White) and features an all-female cast playing “Nice Gal Eddie” and her gang.
The initial scenes are snapshots from Tarantino’s film and a nearly word-for-word reproduction, the difference being each curse word from the script has been feminized and gender roles have been inverted—as in Ms. Pink’s restaurant-gratuity diatribe (“He [the waiter] didn’t provide exceptional service”) and when Ms. Blonde (Jennifer Herbold) and Nice Gal Eddie (Dana Moore) provocatively wrestle and spank one another on the ground. The physical presence of these eight women bantering and swearing loudly at one another, along with the deft clicking of high heels across the stage, added a sensuality and liveliness to an otherwise dialogue-laden plot.
Irony is surely the point of this adaptation. However, the graphic violence of the original screenplay has some unexpected results when exacted upon attractive women in place of the film’s familiar male players. When Ms. Orange (played by Hilary Tellesen) arrives with her gut-shot wound and commences bleeding and moaning, the audience is noticeably stunned—a testament to both Tellesen’s acting ability and an example of the power in the suspension of disbelief. At intermission Ms. Orange remains “unconscious” on the stage till the next act as though she were a prop, at which time the audience cannot help noticing the growing pool of blood at the edge of the stage nor can they escape the shocking reminder of the preceding scenes.
As Ms. White comforts Ms. Orange, tenderness is not lost—however, the tone in this adaptation varies from the same interaction between actors Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth in the film: between the men credibility and discretion are of consequence to the gang, and between the dying man and his partner these concerns are put aside. But there is something fundamentally different in Ms. White’s comforting of Ms. Orange: there is degree of professionalism involved, certainly—but the emotion between these women flows more freely in the concern for the injured Ms. Orange, and has much less to do with profits and the business of the robbery they’ve just committed.
Stark comic relief is sprinkled throughout the second act, including some risqué knife-lap-dancing by Herbold’s Ms. Blonde, and Ms. Orange at one point rising amid the gory mess and quipping about someone’s hair style–but this along with the gender-inverted dialogue and mannerisms are the exception. Reservoir Dolls ultimately reads more like drama than comedy or parody.
Director Jeremy Votava is brilliant in a minor role as the officer-in-uniform at the receiving end of several awe-inspiring face-slaps from Ms. Blonde, and Mabrie Ormes is clever and believable as the curmudgeonly boss, Joe. The entire cast—rounded out by Samantha Perry (Ms. Pink), Michelle Smith (Ms. Blue) and Rebecca Saucier (Ms. Brown)—skillfully handles the dense, interjecting dialogue, resulting in an impressive interpretation of Tarantino’s familiar heist plot.