Comparison: TOTH’s Den of Thieves (Boochie and Little Tuna)

One of the reasons that I enjoy watching productions at Theatre-on-the-Hill is the cast, more specifically when shows are double cast for whatever reason.

In the case of TOTH’s production of Den of Thieves, two of the roles are split between two actors. The role of the exotic dancer/stripper Boochie is split between newcomer Seneca Lee Evensen and musical theatre veteran Jacqueline Schultz. On the male front the role of Lou “The Little Tuna” Pescatore is split between stage veteran Joseph Mennella and the latest protege, Cameron Nowicki.

Now if you have read my “official” review of the show from opening weekend, then you know that I have seen the version that has Seneca playing Boochie and Cameron as Little Tuna. However, that Saturday night performance was also very different from that of Opening Night where Joseph Mennella played the Little Tuna.

Here is a quickie breakdown of who is playing who and when during the run of the show:

1st weekend: 28 – 30 October 2011

  • Boochie: Seneca Lee Evensen
  • Little Tuna: Joseph Mennella (Friday & Sunday), Cameron Nowicki (Saturday)

2nd weekend: 4 – 6 November 2011

  • Boochie: Jacqueline Schultz
  • Little Tuna: Joseph Mennella

3rd weekend: 11 – 13 November 2011

  • Boochie: Seneca Lee Evensen
  • Little Tuna: Cameron Nowicki

4th weekend: 18 – 20 November 2011

  • Boochie: Jacqueline Schultz
  • Little Tuna: Joseph Mennella

If you notice, there are three different “versions” of the show that one could watch: Seneca/Joseph, Seneca/Cameron, and Jacqueline/Joseph. So watching interactions and the varying chemistry within the combos is a joy to analyze and nitpick to one’s content (as I am prone to do). What I will attempt to do is describe what my thoughts are for each actor as they play each role and compare the actors in the roles that they co-portray.

Why am I not analyzing the varying combinations themselves? Simply because there isn’t much interaction between the characters of Boochie and Little Tuna, so to analyze that would be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, it is simply not worth it.

Seneca Lee Evensen is the newcomer to not only Theatre-on-the-Hill but theatre in general, and for a novice she does a fantastic job portraying the exotic dancer/stripper Boochie in her first role. Though one could argue that she didn’t portray Boochie, she IS Boochie. She intuitively knows how to play up the character no matter the circumstance, the mannerisms come so naturally to her that it is easy to forget that she’s acting. Even so, as a novice there are still things that she could work on as an actress: consistently reacting when she isn’t speaking or being spoken to, for the most part. Regardless of experience, Seneca gives Boochie not only an air of independence, but a sense of vulnerability in a minor moment of of her monologue. In some ways because she is such a natural Boochie, it remains to be seen how she would fare as another character altogether. Seneca has a fantastic running start though and I only see great things coming out of her should she continue acting down the road.

Jacqueline Schultz is primarily known for her musical theatre experience, so seeing her in something grittier and darker was a real treat. Her being in a straight show gives her a chance to really flex her acting chops that isn’t always possible in musical theatre. What she brings to the table as Boochie is a much more polished portrayal of Boochie, she is very quick with a jab and could fill in voids when necessary. Jacqueline’s Boochie is very proud and independent, so vulnerability doesn’t come as easily or isn’t quite as believable as one would think, but in some ways it works. It is through this pride and independence that one could easily see the wheels turning in her head as she determines her next course of action as Boochie when it seems clear that her original plan isn’t working. Even though this interpretation isn’t as gritty, her strength is in the nuances when the focus seemingly isn’t on her.

Cameron Nowicki is the perpetual protege of the group. Someone with experience but hasn’t been molded and polished quite yet. He shined in a big way when he came out as Little Tuna, whether he was singing Justin Beiber, or flirting with the girls. Whether he was trying to put Sallie ‘Nads in his place or trying to figure out where he belongs in this mafia lifestyle. His interpretation of Little Tuna is a cross between Scrappy Doo and… well I can’t seem to figure out what to be honest (my beau just told me it was a cross of Scrappy Doo and Scott Evil, which makes TOTAL sense). What resulted is a young man with a spark and a spunk that simply cannot be ignored, add to this a Napoleonic complex and the laughs will keep coming. This is someone that I would be more than willing to see again down the road, and hopefully to see where he comes up with in the future.

One look at the stage veteran, Joseph Mennella and you can’t help but think, “**yawn** another sexy mafia man” and then he begins to speak. Joseph just has that look that screams out Italian mafia, but what makes Joseph’s interpretation of Little Tuna memorable is that as much as he looks like the heir to the mafia empire, even though he acts like a mafioso, when he speaks it is anything but. Saying things like, “daddy I love you” or “I can’t help it, I have Bieber fever” you cannot believe it is coming out of his mouth, but it does. Even though his interpretation is more by-the-book approach, it works simply because his look is the perfect counter point to everything else.

If someone were to ask (and it has happened) which interpretation I prefer, I simply cannot answer. Each actor/actress brings such a unique spin and flavor to their performance that it some ways it is like comparing Granny Smith apples to Red Delicious.

In all honesty I would go so far as to recommend seeing the show twice, obviously with different actors so you could get a feel of how changing the actors changes the feel of everything else, no matter how minor. I have seen this show quite a few times and I still haven’t bored of the show yet, mainly because the writing, acting and directing is top notch.

There are still two weekends left in this run… I know I am going to be there to see it through to the end, what about you?

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