‘Men of Tortuga’ argue action and ethics in Foundry’s taut, fraught inaugural production

Foundry Forge Presents: Men of Tortuga

Shores Event Center — through Aug. 19

Kerry Patrick, Tad Paulson, Larry Hansen and Dennis Barnett (L-R) in Foundry Forge’s ‘Men of Tortuga.’ — photo by Greg Billman

Two impressive pillars in the Shores Event Center frame the playing area for Men of Tortuga, the first production of the Foundry Forge, part of a new arts endeavor headed by Jason Alberty. The production itself is supported by two impressive pillars, as well — a strong script by Jason Wells and sharp performances by the cast of five under Alberty’s direction. I attended the final dress rehearsal of the show which opened Aug. 10 and runs through Aug. 19.

Men of Tortuga is a taut tale of three men who hire an assassin to help them kill a rival. Complicating their plan (which is logistically complicated enough) is a fourth man who is desperate to forge a compromise between opposing sides and who isn’t aware of the deadly plot in which he could easily get caught up.

This is a play of conversation. Fraught conversations happen in two rooms — the room in which the plot is hatched and the office of one of the conspirators (Joe Link’s scenic design is stripped down and perfect for the space and the play). A third room, the room in which the assassination is to take place, looms large but is never seen. We watch men argue about action and ethics, simultaneously attempting to overcome problems posed by physical reality while they reshape their ephemeral ideas about ethics and responsibility to suit their present needs.

The cast brings convincing energy to these conversations, which are full of feuding and feints. Tad Paulson’s portrayal of Tom Avery — a man who wants to commit a horrific act in the most ethical way possible — is central to the show’s success. He serves as the pivot point for much of the arguing, trying to soothe egos, keep the plans plausible and maintain something resembling the moral high ground.

Larry Hansen plays Jeff Kling, Avery’s co-conspirator and a man much more interested in getting the job done than about the ethics of the situation. Hansen captures his character’s sarcasm and frustration beautifully, though one essential rant toward the end of the show was delivered a bit by rote, which was noticeable given how natural most of the dialogue throughout the performance had felt.

Dennis Barnett, as Kit Maxwell, owns the play’s most demanding role, appearing in nearly every scene and filling the stage with his anger, his convictions and his rhetorical schemes. Maxwell’s motives and actions are the most complex, and Barnett ensures that complexity is highlighted.

Kerry Patrick embodies Taggart, a man who may love planning for violence as much if not more than violence itself. The dreamy look he gets in his eye as he sketches out horrific scenes for the co-conspirators is both chilling and hilarious.

K. Michael Moore (L) and Dennis Barnett in Foundry Forge’s ‘Men of Tortuga.’ — photo by Greg Billman

K. Michael Moore plays Allan Fletcher, an idealist who thinks he has the compromise that bring competing sides together. His dark side is just under the surface, however, and his transformation during the inevitable face off with the conspirators is wholly convincing.

During the final dress, there were some dropped lines that muddled things up a bit and perhaps a missed cue or two that led to awkward moments. After Paulson’s most powerful moment late in the play, the final moments sag a bit, losing energy as the final blackout approaches. Still, by that point, Wells’ investigation of human nature has done its work, illuminating the ways in which darkness can overwhelm us, even when — perhaps especially when — we are wholly convinced we are right.

Alberty is committed to keeping costs down for attendees of Foundry Forge performances, so tickets are just $10. He did tell me, however, that there will be four tip boxes for those who might like to kick in a little more to support this new project. Here’s my tip for you: Catch Men of Tortuga and get in on the ground floor of Alberty’s vision for expanding the arts in this community.

Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »