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The White Stag Quadrilogy

This vintage throwback is a gritty and unapologetic story about a filmmaker with relentless artistic integrity, and the band of misfits surrounding him.

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(Clockwise from top left) Rebeca Miller, Andrew R. Butler, Chloe Kernaghan (masked, choreographer), Derek Smith, Michelle Uranowitz and Jaime Wright in a scene from “White Stag Quadrilogy” (Photo credit: On the Rocks)

(Clockwise from top left) Rebeca Miller, Andrew R. Butler, Chloe Kernaghan (masked, choreographer), Derek Smith, Michelle Uranowitz and Jaime Wright in a scene from “White Stag Quadrilogy” (Photo credit: On the Rocks)

Ryan Mikita

The year is 1979. Meet Jerry Wolfert: a self-proclaimed novelist, occult priest, outcast to society, and war veteran. A man of many endeavors, Jerry most recently reinvented himself as a filmmaker in order to create his magnum opus, The White Stag Quadrilogy, a series of four films about a mythical white stag. With three of the four films completed and production starting for the fourth and final film, a legal mishap leads to Jerry’s indictment and arrest, indefinitely postponing production of the film.

The White Stag Quadrilogy—also the name of this the latest production by On The Rocks Theatre Company—finds our anti-hero under house arrest at the Plaza Michelle, a North Hollywood strip club over which he has ownership. With the help of his ex-wife Pearl, the staff of the Plaza Michelle, and some unconventional storytelling techniques, Jerry sets out to complete his masterpiece—albeit with no budget—from the confines of the dilapidated strip club in which he now resides. Every once in a while, a show comes along which isn’t easily describable in words. The White Stag Quadrilogy would seem to be just that, a story which is both melancholy and riotous, stripped down yet lavish, farcical but painfully realistic.

As played by Andrew R. Butler, Jerry Wolfert is a tenacious artist. Despite the lack of money, locations, trained actors—everything needed for a proper film production, Butler’s persona is uncompromising and fully committed to the completion of the project. Carrying himself like a king, Butler’s regal posture is a fitting contrast to his attire–a long-sleeve polyester button down, a ragged brown bathrobe (white underwear exposed underneath), massive aviator sunglasses which cover half his face, and a head of long unruly strawberry blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, descending halfway down his back.

Despite the fact that she has much to do with how he ended up at the Plaza Michelle in the first place, Jerry’s ex-wife Pearl is, as it turns out, essential to the completion of the project. Rebecca Miller’s Pearl, a quiet but powerful presence on stage, remains a mystery for much of the play until a passionate monologue in the second act (taking place ten years later in 1989) reveals a much more emotionally complex character with a harrowing motivation.

Andrew R. Butler in a scene from “White Stag Quadrilogy” (Photo credit: On the Rocks)

Andrew R. Butler in a scene from “White Stag Quadrilogy” (Photo credit: On the Rocks)

An element of The White Stag Quadrilogy which cannot go overlooked is the amount of dancing incorporated into the production. In lieu of proper production techniques, Wolfert and company instead choose to depict stags parading across the desert, or eagles flying through the sky, by way of “interpretive” dancing. Enlisting the staff of the Plaza Michelle for this purpose, the dancing trio of Derek Smith, Michelle Uranowitz, and Jaime Wright are together a band of merry misfits who revel in their undulating, gyrating, style of dance (choreographed in hilariously gratuitous fashion by Chloe Kernaghan). Referred to on multiple occasions by Wolfert as “trained professionals,” the self-aware ensemble is a recurring aspect of the play which is, time and time again—and again, hilarious.

Written by Christopher Ford and Dakota Rose, co-founders of On The Rocks Theatre Company, this production is in-house from the ground up. Designed by the pair of co-founders, and directed by Rose, the production contains an uncanny self-awareness which contrasts well against the seedy backdrop of the 1970’s. Proving that the choice of an appropriate venue can truly influence atmosphere, the chosen destination of the Lower East Side’s Dixon Place lends to the production an element of authenticity that can’t be found remotely close to midtown.

The White Stag Quadrilogy is a gritty, retro throwback which drips with originality. Presented in an unapologetically raw form, the result is a production which feels authentically vintage from head to toe. Highlighted by the brutal and demanding performances by its two lead actors, this tale of outright rebellion, love, and passion is intentionally confounding, but almost unceasingly entertaining.

The White Stag Quadrilogy (through February 27, 2016)

On The Rocks Theatre Company

Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-219-0735 or visit http://www.dixonplace.org

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

This vintage throwback is a gritty and unapologetic story about a filmmaker with relentless artistic integrity, and the band of misfits surrounding him.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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