- Katie Kelley
Wild Side Mark Bradbury embodies the titular Egyptian lord in 'Drumming with Anubis.'
Welcome to the Neo-Heathen Male Bonding and Drumming Society's annual camp out, where a dwindling group of aging death metal fans communes in the desert to ceremoniously beat their bongos, reveal their deepest fears and failures, pass around a really big stick and pay tribute to the Egyptian lord of death. But unbeknownst to the membership, this year's recruit—AKA "The New Bitch"—is actually Anubis, the lord of death himself. Will anyone make it out alive? Let the mead flow and the rituals commence!
Outrageously funny and surprisingly poignant, Drumming With Anubis makes its world premiere at Santa Rosa's Left Edge Theatre through June 30. Local playwright David Templeton (and occasional Bohemian contributor) has crafted a clever tale as unique as it is hilarious, imbuing grave material with carefree humor, indelible humanity and ample room for heartfelt reflection.
Under the capable direction of David L. Yen, a well-matched ensemble scores with impeccable pacing and lively action. Chris Schloemp is hysterical and endearing as the tribe's makeshift leader, "Chick," chanting "Dethdog" songs around the campfire. Nick Sholley delivers a touching performance as arthritic Neil ("Professor"), earning laughs with his steadfast recitation of group regulations. Leather jacket-clad Anthony Martinez brings the right amount of fragile masculinity to macho "Bull," and Richard Pallaziol is the perfect fit for reformed alcoholic "Stingray," whose wide-eyed reactions and strange obsession with a cooler add much to the general amusement.
Mark Bradbury shines as Anubis, evolving from innocuous to ominous and ultimately sympathetic. In fact, the lord of death turns out to be a pretty complicated dude. But he's not the only unexpected guest at this year's retreat, nor is he the only one harboring a secret. When no-nonsense Nicky Tree (Ivy Rose Miller, also excellent) shows up to crash the party, everything tumbles out into the open.
Argo Thompson's static set is appealing and immersive, brought to life by Schloemp's beautiful projections. Costumes reflect clear attention to detail, aptly chosen by Sandra Ish. Technical work is commendable, too, thanks to Joe Winkler's desert nightlife sounds and April George's seamless lighting.
To put it bluntly, there is nothing about this show that isn't highly enjoyable and remarkably good. It's a one-of-a-kind, must-see production.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★★
"Drumming With Anubis" runs through June 30 at Left Edge Theatre. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Fri & Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $25-$40. 707.546.3600.