By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Matthew Posey writes, directs and stars in all of the weird, wonderful musical dramedies he puts on at his Ochre House theater, and he always shows the audience something unexpected. He plays the banjo in Old: a Vaudeville Tragedy in Two Acts, currently running at the tiny space near Fair Park. Never expected that. He also dances a little and does considerable yelling at his onstage nemesis, played by Justin Locklear.
Old was inspired by the documentary Shut Up, Little Man!, which came from a series of audio verite recordings in the 1990s about Pete and Ray, a combative pair of elderly San Francisco roommates. Posey's script moves the old men to the San Fernando Valley, with him playing Pete and Locklear as Ray.
Eavesdropping from the flat next door are younger, suicidal Rupert (Christian Taylor) and deadpan Marty (Dante Martinez), who carry on a fictional radio show as they listen to Pete and Ray drink, argue and stab each other with cutlery one Christmas Eve. Landlord George (Kevin Grammer) keeps trying to evict the old coots, who simply ignore him.
Locklear, in his 20s, makes a surprisingly convincing codger, curving his spine into a "C" and spitting out words as if his dentures were loose. He also wrote the original music for the show, which includes some dreamlike flashbacks to Ray's days as a vaudeville song-and-dance man alongside a pretty redheaded chanteuse named Lois (Cassie Bann).
Posey seems to be exploring the shibboleths of toxic close-quarter relationships. Ray and Pete openly loathe each other, so why are they still roommates? Could the presence of two unexpected guests (Marti Etheridge, Mitchell Parrack) change their dynamic? Who is Gladys (Carla Parker) and why is she hooping in the living room?
Take a moment to soak up the details of Old. The red plastic Folgers coffee container, sliced in half to serve as a footlight. The black and white painting of a man's face on the upstage wall, his expression agog at what's going on in front of him. The sound of Locklear's wheezing accordion blending with the wheezing epithets the old guys hurl at each other.
Ah, Ochre House, where everything in Old seems new again.