Lest We Forget
The Riot Act
Stars: Brett Cullen (“Joker”), Brandon Keener, Connor Price (“X Company”), Micah Hauptman, Lauren Sweetser (“NCIS” and “True Detective,”), Dean Denton and Jeremy Shouldis
Director/Scriptwriter: Devon Parks
Composer: Kevin Croxton
Cinematographer: Travis Joiner
Mad Possum Pictures
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: one hour and 45 minutes
Murder, betrayal, revenge---“The Riot Act” has it all, and the why’s and when’s and where’s come trickling in so the audience has to stay on its toes to catch it all. Director/Scriptwriter Devon Parks has placed this story in the King Opera House, Van Buren, Ark, with the mood is of that time period, which is at the turn of the century. Composer Kevin Croxton offers music just right for particular scenes and Cinematographer Travis Joiner’s lighting uses shadow and light of that time period as part of the story. You will recognize the voice of actor Brett Cullen from “Person of Interest,” and here, he plays Dr. Pearrow, a fine arts connoisseur, who frowns at the lower classes. Lauren Sweetser, from “True Detective” plays Allye, his daughter, and Connor Price is August, an apprentice at the theater, which the doctor owns. The play begins.
We start with an argument between a wealthy town doctor (Brett Cullen) and his daughter, Allye, about the man she is dating. Dad locks her in her room, but she leaves to be with the young man and shots are fired. It is two years later, and a traveling vaudeville show is coming to the town. This is unprecedented entertainment, as the doctor—owner of the theater/opera house---has always had elegant entertainment for wealthy townspeople. The doctor has relied on a theater worker, August, (Connor Price) to bring in unusual entertainment this time…a vaudeville show. The doctor begins to doubt his decision, as vaudeville isn’t “pure” entertainment and may demean the reputation of the theater. As the story progresses, we discover what really happened two years prior, that people aren’t who they seem to be, when you see something eerie at the end of a hallway---run---and, as with all weapons, they are dangerous.
The intricacies of the story are revealed, bit by bit. There is more than one actor who is playing a part and you can get away with just about anything if you provide a laugh to go along with it. The lush setting of an opera house of this time period adds to the ambiance of the story and jodhpurs and masks can be noted without question as the characters can be “show people” and continue on their way. The idea of haunting takes on new meaning and scenes of a long hallway are reminiscent of “The Shining” film, that was filmed in an old hotel. The word “pride” is taken apart, piece by piece and the word “revenge” has new meaning. The word “love” is not mentioned, but it runs in the background, as a silent reminder of the past.
Brett Cullen’s character, the haughty doctor, is a carefully wrought persona of a man burdened by the past, and hiding it. Lauren Sweetser, as Allye, is, also, a carefully wrought persona, and you wonder just how many facets there are in her personality. Connor Price, as August, is the surprising element with each scene part of a revolving character you can’t quite put your finger on. The cast works together as though in a hall of mirrors.
“The Riot Act” shows us entertainment of another time period in which classical performances were for the rich and vaudeville for the poor. What happens when the two meet shows the differences in class structure of the early 1900’s and how this was perpetuated. The rich décor of the opera house is a proper backdrop to the play in which actors can do just about anything on stage because they are “actors,” while the audience enjoys the mood because they are watching “actors” and not part of the stage. Eventually, the two will meet and what a revelation. “The Riot Act” is a well-wrought performance.
Copyright 2019 Marie Asner