Front Row Reviews

“Red Red Red” Challenges A Gay Identity

Oakland Theatre Project, known for profound experimental premiere work, has created a mesmerizing psychedelic portrait of a young, queer man attempting to reclaim his identity.

Within a drab tan room, a bed slants forward on wooden pallets resting on a floor above boulders. Objects are strewn in and on milk and vegetable crates. A small window cast the shadow of poverty, and an old granny-squares crocheted blanket drapes over a sloppy bed. During the play, scenes of cows and words flash in projections on the back wall. Meanwhile, unexpected items fall from the ceiling, emerge from under the bed, and people appear through the window.

Christopher Fitzer deserves applause for crafting one of the most apt and functional sets imaginable for this existential odyssey. While working in tandem with Lighting Designer Kevin Myrick, Props Designer Lilia Kuroda, and Videographer Adam Elder Montanaro, the set becomes a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows with time swaying and bending from past to present and back again.  

Playwright Amelio Garcia masterfully adapts Ann Carson’s lyrical Greek myth, “The Autobiography of Red.” He weaves together the tale of the Greek Red Monster, gay Geryon, as a fractured aspect of gay young Red. The non-involved mother and enigmatic lover, Herakles, drift in and out of past and present, blurring the lines of reality and myth.

Red, portrayed with hyperactive intensity by Romeo Channer, struggles to piece together his fragmented sense of self. His heart is soon won and shattered by Herakles, his first love, who quickly abandons him. In anguish, the adolescent cries out, “I will perish at the hands of my eternal lover.”

Multi-talented Anthony Doan, Herakles, creatively—and sometimes humorously— transitions between four distinct characters: lover Herakles, Red’s mother, brother, and Ana. Ana, a girlfriend of Herakles, complicates love when Red reunites with Herakles. Doan’s portrayal is a captivating spectacle, with him embodying the tough guy while exuding a cool, prissy charm as Ana. Half of Doan dresses as  Herakles and the other half of him as Ana. The costumes, expertly crafted by Kipper Yanaga, add an extra layer of artistry to the performance.

Anthony Doan as Red’s mother

Amidst long-winded lyrical musings on the timeless nature of queerness and the pitfalls of stereotyping, Red grapples with existential questions. He wonders about the paradox of individualism as well as the collective consciousness. He states ironically, “One person does not a universe make.” Yet, he points to his metaphorical bovine herd in the pasture. As Red delves into the depths of photography, clicking reality, he still finds himself grappling with alienation, loneliness, and anxiety.

Director William Thomas Hodgson orchestrates these complexities with aplomb. The pace of the production mirrors the restlessness of youth, as well as the versatility of the acting. An exceptional production team conjures remarkable special effects on a small stage.

Oakland Theatre Project’s “Red Red Red” appears to be a phrenetic sojourn through the mind of an adolescent under the influence of peyote, a psychedelic mushroom. Yet, the simple plot harbors deep inquiries. What is the meaning of life?  Also, what do we do when pieces of our past confront our present, challenging the authenticity of our choices?

“Red, Red, Red” will imaginatively challenge you to revisit questions you probably have not asked yourself in some time.

Highly recommended.

“Red Red Red” adapted by Amelio Garcia from Ann Carson’s The Autobiography of Red, directed by William Thomas Hodgson at Oakland Theatre Project, Oakland, CA info: until May 19, 2024

cast: Romeo Channer, Anthony Doan

COVER PHOTO:Romeo Channer PHOTOS:Ben Krantz Studio