Fledgling Toy Boat Theatre's mission statement promises, "good acting in a humble house," and thanks to director Marilyn Bennett and the cast ofDakota's Belly, Wyoming, it delivers. I admired Bennett's production of Cradle Will Rock for University of Puget Sound, and this shorter play is similarly micromanaged. As for the humility of the house (provided by Spaceworks Tacoma), it was uncomfortably warm opening night but fits beautifully otherwise into Hilltop's revitalized atmosphere. This play's pretty steamy, to be sure, so the sweat on actors' faces felt apropos.
The playwright, Erin Cressida Wilson, wrote the screenplays Secretary and Chloe, scripts primarily devoted to erotic experimentation. Dakota's Belly, Wyoming is just as determined to push against longstanding taboos. We were seated in the front row, and the actors were close enough that I was obliged to shift my feet from time to time to get out of their way. It felt a bit ... intimate. I respect actors willing to brave this material on stage, but your predilections may vary. If you prefer the equivalent of a PG rating, this show isn't for you.
In fact, it may not be regardless. One audience member said the script was "trying too hard," and I concur - but hey, I'll pick "trying too hard" over not hard enough any day of the week. Whatever you think of Wilson's efforts, they're impeccably produced here. Smart music choices give the piece a tone (and conclusion!) it wouldn't find on its own; and as for the acting, it's exemplary. Jen Davis and Josh Bornstein are well cast indeed, and as for Rachel Lionheart's Trixie, it's a master class in reactive, Meisner-style naturalism.
See Dakota's Belly for its performances, then debate its poetic but problematic script. It's a sexy piece of work.
[Toy Boat Theatre, Dakota's Belly, Wyoming, $12, 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.,1314 Martin Luther King Way, Tacoma, 253.879.3330]