Furious Theatre returns with a play paralleling the NSA scandals
By Carl Kozlowski 01/09/2014
For a man who is co-artistic director of a theatrical ensemble called Furious Theatre Co., Shawn Lee is certainly happy these days. Over the past 11 years, the 21-member troupe he runs with Matt Pelfrey has produced the US premieres of 18 plays, but their new one at the Pasadena Playhouse’s second stage theater, the 99-seat Carrie Hamilton Theatre might be their most insightful and provocative yet.
“Foxfinder,” which opens Saturday and runs through Feb. 2, is a futuristic parable with a plot packed with menace and suspicion. Written by Dawn King and directed by Damaso Rodriguez, the play is about a rural British couple 50 years from now who are surprised by an invasive home inspection after a fox infestation is blamed for a string of bad luck that befalls the countryside around them.
The totalitarian government has assigned a government agent called a “Foxfinder” to their home, and the ensuing investigation leads to finger-pointing, guilt, fear and distorted realities. According to Lee, the play hits the zeitgeist during a time when the National Security Agency is violating the rights of Americans in a rapidly expanding fashion.
“One of our ensemble saw it in London two years ago and said we need to get our hands on this play,” says Lee. “It’s a beautifully written play, a parable with a message that’s got a lot of past-future, future-past dynamics. It’s set in this post-apocalyptic world where society is on rations and the government sends out these agents if your farm is not producing. Foxes are to blame for everything.”
The current production marks Furious Theatre’s return to the Carrie Hamilton stage after two years. The troupe debuted in 2002 after the Armory Center for the Arts granted them temporary use of a 9,000 square foot section of the Armory Northwest, which had been a former plastics factory.
After transforming the shipping and receiving dock of this raw warehouse into an alternative performance space, Furious established a feverish pace by producing five plays in its first year. As a result, they received numerous award nominations from the Los Angeles press as well as the Pasadena Arts Council’s Gold Crown Award and the Debut Award from Back Stage magazine.
Those honors led to the Playhouse offering the troupe a residency at its second stage in 2004, an arrangement that lasted seven years until the Playhouse underwent bankruptcy proceedings in 2011. Furious then sought out new homes all over the Los Angeles theatrical scene, with its current return a temporary one along its journey.
The current production is actually part of a “rolling US premiere,” since the play was produced in November in Portland in a co-production with that city’s Artist Repertory Theatre (ART). The cast of that edition consisted of half Portland actors and designers, and half Furious actors.
“We’re bringing down half the ART’s actors and designersa for our show here,” says Lee. “We’re very excited to have a relationship with a great theater in another city, and we’re excited for our next two years.”
Furious Theatre presents “Foxfinder” from Saturday through Feb. 2 at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre, located at the Pasadena Playhouse, 45 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $20. Call (626) 356-7529 or visit Pasadenaplayhouse.org.