Review by Aaron Riccio
A depressed genie, three furies, a male nurse with a "lithsp," an overly cheerful and hyperactive social dunce, a murderous nephew with a penchant for arsenic and chocolate, a crazed old maid who pleasures and is pleasured by the lovesick monster in her closet, and yeah, the monster in the closet. Throw enough things at the wall, and something's bound to stick: welcome to the Fringe. Welcome also to The October Sapphire, a play (with music) by Nick Coyle that tries so hard to be eccentric that it forgets to be anything else (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).
If you believe that going to the theater is first and foremost supposed to be shocking, that is, if you're of the camp that loves raunchy puppet humor, forced or not, this is a good start for you. If you're, say, a suicidal transvestite midget child actor who succumbs to the more is more philosophy, The October Sapphire has enough laughs and indomitable spirits to rise to the occasion. But as for that smidgen of meaning, that deeper sense that justifies the madness . . . I'm afraid this "gem," on closer inspection, is roughly the same kind you'd find in one of those twenty-five cent toy-vending machines. There's no plot, just a lot of whirligig running around for each new segment as characters randomly fall for one another or for their own delusions.
There are some standout performances from Hetty Marriott-Brittan, who plays the hallucinating matriarch of the house. While her character may be oblivious to everyone around her, the actress has such keen rhythm that she seems literally animated, as if she might, at any moment, burst out with an "Eh, what's up, Doc?" type moment. Simon Greiner, who provides the voice and mannerisms of his puppet, Pesto, could easily be in Avenue Q, and it's his irrepressible charm that gives the "real" actors such leeway. But the actors stuck playing the genie and his posse of Furies have nothing to use that leeway for and simply suck up stage time, and other actors, like Ben Harrison and Claudia O'Doherty grow more and more annoying as their caricatures balloon up and overwhelm them. Nick Coyle's script peters out too, caving in completely to over-the-top shock which is more like under-the-radar schlock.
Here's where the dialogue ultimately winds up: "I'll bet you've never woken up to think: have I just killed someone, or is this just another miscarriage?" No, I haven't. My question after the shock of The October Sapphire wears off: should I have?
The Harry DuJour Playhouse (466 Grand Street)
Two Performances Left: THUR 17 @ 6:45, FRI 18 @ 4:15
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.