Celeste Mari Williams’ Gills, Gills, Gills is weird, and that’s great. Comprising three tales of undersea romance, strung together with a deadpan, nature-documentary voice-over, Gills is a high-concept and hilarious work.
From the very beginning, it’s clear that Williams’ play, directed for ReAct by Rebecca Tourino Collinsworth, is an intensely physical show. The first third, titled At Arms Length, showcases performer Anuhea Brown as she completely captures the odd physicality of an octopus. This particular octopus is vehemently opposed to her pursuit by two males (Denny Le and Jeremy Behrens), and struggles to retain the upper hand in her courtship. The physical commitment from all three performers is immediately evident, grounding their movement in informed character decisions, and this dexterity remains throughout the series. The second piece, Let’s Dance, sees a pair of seahorses fall in love, all done on rollerskates. The costume work, also by Collinsworth, is incredibly fun, and the seahorses’ long noses and mohawk-adorned helmets are the best of the set.
The theme of gender-role-reversal plays a strong hand in all three plays, which is informed by narrated facts about actual sea creatures. The final short play, Nothing but Gonads, demonstrates this as female anglerfish (Stephanie Spohrer) absorbs a much smaller male anglerfish. The following short features a bravura performance from Spohrer, who carries the majority of the piece with a sense of hilarious, wide-eyed anxiety. Tying the three pieces together is the constant presence of puppeteer Shahbaz Khan, who quietly and continuously adds to the show’s ensemble.
Gills, Gills, Gills is a jubilant, winning comedy with a refreshing DIY approach to design and a surprisingly layered, but still goofy and accessible script.
Gills, Gills, Gills is now running at 12th Ave Arts. For tickets and more information, go to http://www.reacttheatre.org/