Freak Winds is a clever thriller-cum-comedy that keeps the audience excited and guessing, and demonstrates that actor-writer-directors (e.g., Marshall Napier) aren’t all bad. Freak Winds isn’t very deep—it’s not even shallow—but while it may not be much of a pool, it twists enough to be a wicked fun slip-‘n-slide. The superficial is superb, and the lightning-fast lines are like fuel for the propellant plot.
Or perhaps I should say “plot device.” Napier’s set up is classic, unsettling Hitchcock, and revolves around some bad weather that forces Henry Crumb, a boisterous life-insurance salesman, to hole up in Ernest’s house. It’s immediately clear that something is wrong (like a horrible meat-like smell), and things only get worse for poor Mr. Crumb (the front door self-locks, and there’s a sound of knives being sharpened off-stage). As if he were in Glengarry Glen Ross, Henry uses his insurance shtick as a shield: “He’d been hit by a truck and had cancer...but it was the lack of insurance that did him in...All that worry.” However, Ernest’s quiet demeanor, Pinterian and cruelly playful, is utterly disarming, and when Ernest’s questioning grows violent, Henry starts breaking down.
Through the first act, and most of the second, Freak Winds holds us rapt with constant wordplay and a Durang-like sense for the unpredictable, but unfortunately, the play’s final minutes have a breakdown similar to Henry’s. It’s almost worth walking out early, as the last two scenes pretty much ruin the show, and no good show deserves such ignominy.
Nor should the actors suffer any embarrassment: Napier and Co. are superb, particularly Tamara Lovatt-Smith (Myra, the wheelchair-bound seductress), who steals the show with deadpan lines like “Dead bodies don’t make good sex toys in my book.” Damian de Montemas (the unfortunate Crumb) shows a wide range in his performance (even if it’s 90% panic). However, text is the strongest element of Freak Winds, and as an unwilling participant/observer in Myra and Ernest’s game, he’s constantly upstaged.
Freak Winds keeps this energetic one-upmanship going almost the whole show, and while the resolution is awful, the entertainment is a genuine force of nature.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.