Medicine Show Theatre and Cressid Theatre Company present The Sheik, a farce with moments of hilarity and two shining actors, which nonetheless fails to be a cohesively entertaining piece.
Review by Elizabeth Devlin
Deloss Brown’s new play, The Sheik, is based upon Richard Steele’s early 18th century play, The Tender Husband. In this modernization of societal farce we meet Jack, an unscrupulous, chauvinistic man who needs to divorce his wife in order to placate his pregnant girlfriend /secretary, Patsy.
In an attempt to make himself seem the victim, he entices his gay employee Frank to lure his wife to a motel room, so that Jack may get photographic evidence that he is not the one to blame for the dissolution of the marriage.
The highlights of The Sheik include Amber Voiles, who plays Marty, the wife, and Jack Perry, who plays Frank and dons the Sheik identity in order to seduce Marty. The exchanges between the Sheik and Marty are the funniest moments in the play, and rely heavily on traditional comedic situations: the double identity of Frank/ Sheik, the miscommunications that occur because the Sheik does not ‘understand’ American language or culture, and the innocent woman being tempted after a few too many glasses of ‘non-alcoholic’ champagne. (The Sheik being Muslim and all.)
As the Sheik, Jack Perry is entertaining. As Frank, he becomes a neurotic gay stereotype who whines throughout most of the show. At the end, when Frank is forced to reexamine his relationship with Marty, we see both sides of the coin – he is neurotic, yes, but also charming.
The subplot of the lesbian hotel manager, Joanne, who befriends Frank and loves Patsy, is unnecessary to the overall story and serves little purpose than to elongate the show. Her observation that Patsy’s ultra-conservative beliefs are outmoded and ignorant are merely stating the obvious in the context of both the show and the Off-Broadway New York audience.
The characters of Patsy and Jack are stock farce: Jack is a jerk and there will never be redemption for him. Patsy is a nitwit, and her eventual realization that maybe she can’t ‘save’ Jack evokes no response from the audience, save “well, clearly!”.
Overall, the translation of the old farcical themes to the modern context do not work, as the writing makes the three act play seem longer by being superfluous and redundant at times.
“The Sheik” continues through Sept. 22 at the Medicine Show Theater, 549 West 52nd Street, Manhattan; (212) 868-4444, medicineshowtheatre.org.
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.