CHARACTERIZATIONS ARE COMIC IN T- BONE

From: The Miami Herald
Date: May 31, 1993
Author: Christine Dolan

T Bone and Weasel are two petty South Carolina crooks who keep going back to the pen as reliably as the buzzards return to winter atop the Dade County Courthouse.

It’s not that T Bone (James Samuel Randolph) and Weasel (Jon Elliott Matchen) especially like prison life. It’s just that, as lawbreakers, the only thing they seem to do really well is get arrested.

Jon Klein’s darkly funny T Bone N Weasel, first done at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky., has now burrowed into Miami Beach’s Area Stage. In cramped quarters against walls sporting a giant South Carolina map, T Bone and Weasel undertake a peripatetic and star-crossed crime spree, with a few boxes and prop guns and the wonderfully chameleonic Chaz Mena as their only companions.

Mena, voted South Florida’s best actor by the area’s critics last season, plays all the characters the hapless pair would love to victimize, unfailingly turning the tables on them.

He’s Mr. Fergus, the proprietor of a country store (called “De Sto”), who just happens to be cleaning his rifle when the guys walk in with robbery on their minds. He’s also Happy Sam, the used car dealer who smugly refuses to pay T Bone any more than $105 for a stolen Buick worth $5,000. And “Reverend Gluck,” a homeless “preacher” who demands an offering at gunpoint. Also Verna Mae Beaufort, a less-than-attractive steel magnolia (“That woman could gag a maggot”) who demands real special service from her new employee Weasel. And so on.

It can’t be easy to do nine variations on redneck types, but Mena pulls it off zestfully and convincingly. His versatility is a large part of the fun in T Bone N Weasel.

As the oddball buddies, Randolph and Matchen are well cast and thoroughly believable.

Randolph is an accomplished classical actor and drama professor, yet he’s got all the rhythms and attitudes of T Bone — a cynical African-American graduate of the prison system who rightfully sees racism wherever he turns — down cold. He brings just the right understated tone to lines such as, “Ain’t too many black folks name they kids Bob.”

Matchen makes Weasel a whiskey-voiced Creedence Clearwater Revival fanatic who has obviously pickled a few thousand too many brain cells. Yet, for all the jail time, he’s a genuine innocent who really doesn’t see the color of T Bone’s skin, which leads to recurrent problems for them both and gives deeper meaning to Klein’s twisted comedy.

T Bone N Weasel is something of a technical horror, since the guys are never in one place for long, but director John Rodaz and designer Darin Jones have solved the problem with spotlighted titles announcing locale (“A Stolen Buick on U.S. 21,” for instance).

Very early in its run, T Bone N Weasel needs to get tighter technically and lighter in spirit. Still, it’s another appealing production from Area Stage.

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