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Theater Review: Crabs in a Bucket

Jordan Hull, Michael Sturgis, Anna LaMadrid and Xochitl Romero in Crabs in a Bucket. Photo by Cooper Bates.

People who actively speak or work against the success of others are known proverbially as crabs in a bucket. Apparently, crabs have the ability to climb out of a bucket once caught, but any crab attempting to do so will be pulled back in by its misery-loves-company crabby peers. After seeing Echo Theater Company’s Crabs in a Bucket, you might think of the buzz-killers in your own life in a new light, as, yes, crabs in a bucket.

Just be aware that if you choose to call those downers crabs in a bucket, you’ll now also be identifying them with witty repartee. Bernardo Cubria’s new play, having its world premiere at the Echo Theatre, misses no opportunity for crab-centric wordplay, prominently featuring words like shuck, shell and blowhole. Despite its light and humorous tendencies, it packs an important message about the importance of community.

The play opens on two crabs in clever costumes designed by Lou Cranch. The super-crusty Amargo (Xochitl Romero) lives by the belief, “I’m too good to still be in the shucking bucket.” Amargo’s sidekick is a yes-crab named Pootz (Anna LaMadrid).

Xochitl Romero in Crabs in a Bucket. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Amargo and Pootz have spent a long time in their orange bucket. They’ve seen a lot of crabs come and go, and they complain about those who got out, make excuses for why they’re both still bucket-bound, and sour-grape about how it’s probably not so great out there anyway. (Given the odds of melted butter in the escapees’ future, that last one is probably pretty accurate.)

Anna La Madrid in Crabs in a Bucket. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Into this attitudinal rut comes the young and energetic Beb (Jordan Hull, who played the lead in another great Echo show, Poor Clare). When not scuttling hilariously, Beb’s powerful positive thinking gets Pootz thinking maybe there’s another way besides talking down every crab in the bucket. Amargo doesn’t appreciate the newcomer’s threat to Pootz’s fealty.

Jordan Hull in Crabs in a Bucket. Photo by Cooper Bates.

But wait, there’s more! Another crab drops in. It’s Mamon (Michael Sturgis, Hull’s co-star in Poor Clare and Echo’s Literary Manager). Mamon is a repeat bucket-dweller: he once escaped, but doesn’t want to talk about what was out there.

Michael Sturgis in Crabs in a Bucket. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Have the crabs learned they must work together to escape the bucket? Director Alana Dietze makes sure the tension stays high and the laughs keep coming in this allegorical tale, right up to the poignant ending.

Echo Theatre Company’s Crabs in a Bucket is performed Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 4:00pm at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. Tickets are $34, except Mondays, which are pay what you wish. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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