The Who’s Tommy @ Stray Dog Theatre

For the second time, Stray Dog Theatre presents
The Who’s Tommy. I’m glad, because I thought the dog strayed
from the path last time. The steam-punk style was at the height of
its popularity. So Stray Dog gave us a steam-punk Tommy. I can think of few styles less appropriate
for Tommy. Tommy happens during World War II and after. Tommy’s father, Captain Walker, goes missing
in action, then turns up again after the war, creating a traumatic event for Tommy, who
becomes that deaf, dumb, and blind boy and pinball wizard. This time,I thought Josh Smitih’s set showed
a Bauhaus influence, clear lines, flat surfaces, including usable second story spaces on that
soaring stage. It has that mid-century modern look, the period
of Tommy’s beginning. . As the show continues, the designs, especially
for Eileen Engel’s costumes, grow embroidered with LED light strips and other products of
electronic fertility. This, and Tyler Duenow’ lights, complement
and deepen Mike Hodges’ choreography with an energetic ensemble of some of Stray Dog’s
top performers. Jennifer Buchheit leads the fluid instrumentalists. Director Justin Been grows more confident
and sensitive to the material with each production. In this one, Kevin Corpuz’s Tommy hovers about
much of the action even when not directly involved. He melds with Alora Marguerite Walsby’s 4-year-old
Tommy and Leo Taghert’s 10 years old Tommy. Tristan Davis plays the sadistic Cousin Kevin
and Cory Frank the creepy pedophile Uncle Ernie. Kelly Howe carries much of the weight of the
show as Tommy’s mother and gives it depth and meaning. Phil Leveling makes Tommy’s father, Captain
Walker, absent for much of the show, a fierce defender of his county in battle and of his
family when he returns home. Molly Marie Meyer injects the acid into The
Gypsy’s Acid Queen. Everyone keeps making sense of Pete Townsend
and Des McAnuff’s book and relishes performing Townsend and John Entwistle and Keith Moon’s
music. The Who’s Tommy is strange, often fascinatingly
strange. I like what Stray Dog has done with it

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