(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)
Given the various recent reports naming Austin America’s most economically segregated city, a play that deals with the gentrification of Austin’s Eastside is incredibly timely.
While Glass Half Full Theatre’s "Simple Sundries," playing through March 14th at Salvage Vanguard, may not offer any pat answers or even a particularly biting critique, the charming satirical show does ask us to think about our relationship to the changes in the Austin landscape.
Conceived and written by Caroline Reck and Parker Dority, the show brings together an array of puppetry techniques to tell a story about a recently-arrived hipster shop-owner (Gricelda Silva) who discovers that the previous resident of her converted commercial space hasn’t yet vacated the premises. But after some minor altercations, Constance and Kismet (a brightly colored parakeet puppetted by Dority) learn to co-habit comfortably.
Of course, that comfort entails some fortuitous capitalizing on a social media fluke: another jab the show makes at how consumer culture operates in our town.
Full of entertaining pokes at the bastions of Austin culture – teasingly taking on everything from food trucks to KUT radio personality John Aielli – the show is gentle in its criticism and professional in its production quality.
Silva is graceful and adorable in her clowning, expressively conveying a lot of information without many words.
Reck’s scenic design takes us right into the familiar boutique atmosphere of overpriced "sundries" and eclectic bric-a-brac. With Stephen Pruitt on lighting and K. Eliot Haynes on sound design, the audio and visual elements come together beautifully.
The show opens with an all-too-resonant dance of real estate challenges – with the Austin housing market going through the roof. So the show hits close to home on purpose – bringing in some of even the most recent current events to build to its climax.
All that being said, the show runs pretty short. Less than an hour from start to finish, "Simple Sundries" doesn’t offer a lot of time or space for the relationships to build. Consequently, it ends pretty abruptly and moves too fast for any substantive emotional investment in the characters. So although it’s thoughtful and cute and I enjoyed the show, it didn’t have as much weight as I might have hoped.
"Simple Sundries" continues through March 14 at Salvage Vanguard Theater. www.glasshalffulltheatre.com