Last week I had the pleasure to see a friend of mine in Profiles Theatre’s production of Hellcab. The first thing I said to him about his performance was that it took til almost the end of the show for me to be any where close to certain as to which character he played.
However, there was just enough doubt in me that I leaned over to my friend (his wife) after the show and ask, “your husband was the blind man, right?” Typically I am pretty good at playing “spot my talented friend” be it on stage or on film… in this case, not realizing which one was my friend was a feat in itself.
If you don’t already know the general production of Hellcab, it is a slew of scenes of various people and their interactions with the cab driver (the main character who was on stage for the entirety of the production). However, instead of having a small slew of actors playing multiple roles, each individual role was cast with a different actor… making this the largest cast production of Hellcab (that I know of to date).
However, considering the concept of this anniversary season of Profiles Theatre is it really any surprise that they would go all out?
When walking into the theatre for your seats the first thing you notice is that there is a full-sized cab sitting in the middle of the stage. The roof was sawed off and both passenger seats were taken out… but for the most part the cab was all there and in reasonable working condition (well reasonable enough).
What do I mean?
Well the cabbie is able to turn left or right and you can see the tires actually turn. The cab’s headlights were working for some of the scenes set in the middle of the night. (Though being an engineer I am kind of curious if they were run from the cabbie in the scene or from a separate tech crew… I should probably ask my friend but I digress).
Since there are so many characters outside of the cab driver, I won’t be able to run through them all (mainly because I don’t remember who they were, or which actors / actresses played what)… so what I’ll do is just notate the highlights.
1) The douchebag who was talking himself up while admitting that the girl he was with was just someone he liked to poke at once in a while when he’s in town. The change between the “Jekyll & Hyde” personas was just seamless… almost a reflection of Gollum/Smeagol. The cabbie’s reaction as the guy just went on and on and on and on was precious too (but more on him later). Granted… most women would probably have seen the signs that this guy was a douche a mile away when watching him, but in the moment you can’t help but believe that this guy was genuine. Proving once again you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
2) The pregnant woman and her husband. I could not stop laughing. Just the whole plethora of emotions from loving her husband to hating him… from loving the baby to hating it… to taking it out on the cab driver to thanking him… You could totally see this happening and yet was so unexpected that – unfortunately – a part of me was half expecting for the baby to pop out in the cab right then and there… I would have loved to have been able to see how that would have fared…
3) The silent man that smacked the trunk of the cab… whomever played that role I commend you. Virtually wordless, freakishly silent, and he freaked the hell out of me, despite the face that I noticed him as he entered the stage and inched towards the trunk of the cab. If anyone back stage heard someone yelp… that would be me.
4) The actress that played the rape victim that was so uncomfortably perfect. I won’t say why in the context of the blog post… but rest assured that was perfect.
5) The passengers that caught the attention of one of my friends was the couple that had oral sex in the cab. She wondered if the actors playing that couple knew one another prior to the show, when she was informed that before this production “no” she was even more impressed by how comfortable they appeared to be for going as far as they did. She especially was entertained by the cabbie taking out a cigarette and turning the music up really loud… yeeeeaaaaah, we were rolling in the seats in laughter.
6) Speaking of Number 5… I couldn’t be sure but I was entertained by one of the passengers that was joined the couple (where the female passenger had bright pink hair). I couldn’t tell but from my vantage point it would appear that he was trying to “jack off” as it were. I could be wrong… but dammit, it was more than entertaining watching that whole chaotic scene unfold to the point that the cab driver finally forced the female passenger out.
7) Finally the last passenger of the show, after all the craziness that was going on in the cab for the driver on Christmas Eve nevertheless he brought a sense of good spirit to the driver who felt like he needed a little bit of holiday cheer. The instant connection between the passenger and driver, virtual strangers willing to open up and eventually connect on a subject that one had already went through and the other has been going through… after a day where it felt like the cab driver was completely alone in the world… there was this passenger that helped the driver realize and see that no, he’s not alone.
If anything, that last scene in and of itself made the whole show for me. With a title like Hellcab, you can’t help but see how being a cab driver can be considered “hell”, but with every darkness there is always a glimmer of light (as lame as that sounds, and I apologize).
However, “Hellcab” could only work as well as it did as long as the cab driver is the strong center point, and in this case Konstantin Khrustov did a more than fantastic job of keeping his distance and a low profile, or engaging when need to be. He showed a sense of compassion for a few of the female passengers from the day and in one case wanted to intervene… wanted to do something for someone when it seems like they couldn’t do it themselves.
Seeing this more compassionate side of the driver you can’t help but want to know more of him, versus a snapshot of his life… like all the passengers that have come in and out of his cab, they all just give him a snapshot of their lives.
When Konstantin feels uncomfortable with a particular passenger he turns into a turtle and tries to find a way to hide further and further into his seat. Understandable, but also rather humorous in the moment and in hindsight.
As curious as I was in how in the world did the production team manage to get a taxi to fit through the doors and onto the stage is a feat in and of itself, and although I was informed in some of the details… I figured it would be best left alone at the moment.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the production as a whole is how seamless the transitions were from one passenger to the next, choosing to minimize the number of blackouts as much as possible. A decision that I felt was smart in a lot of ways.
Another change that was noted to me was that during the snippet with the blind man, the cab driver comes out to help him out and the blind man yells him off saying “Did I ask for any help?” (or something to that extent). I was informed that the original script mentioned that it was a passerby that attempted to help the blind man as opposed to the cab driver… however, I felt that the change of having the cab driver attempt to help the blind man worked far better. A personal opinion, nevertheless… especially after the cab driver showed a little of his compassionate side when talking to the blind man about the douchebag and the girl that the douche was “poking”. But I digress…
All in all – to me – Profiles knocked another show out of the park. My friends and I all agree that coming in not really knowing what to expect, we were more than happy with what we were able to see. Granted, with the show clocking in at just under 90 minutes helps for a weeknight.
From what I understand this production of Hellcab has been extended twice, with an original closing date of late-December… and then late-January and now it would appear to be late-February. So if you haven’t had a chance to see this production yet… what are you waiting for? Get yee into some form of transportation and head over to Profiles Theatre… you won’t regret it, I promise.