Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Octopus": ☼ ☼ ☼ 1/2 BANG!

First off, you're going to see four naked men fondling each other on stage. Kevin and Blake have met Max and Andy in a neighborhood bar and almost immediately they are back at Kevin and Blake's apartment, in their birthday suits, having dispensed with foreplay, and are moving towards the bed.

But before you think this is a 'gay play,' think again. Steve Yockey's "Octopus," produced through a collaboration of Magic Theater and Encore Theater Company, is a universal love story that deals with the meaning of love, the implications of illness and, above all, the power of commitment.

The four men occupy the first fifteen minutes of the seventy minute, one act performance, but it is the appearance of the fifth (Rowan Brooks, as the unexpected Telegram Delivery Boy), that ratchets 'Octopus' away from your everyday relationship drama.

He has a telegram for Blake, which appears to have been sent from the bottom of the ocean. The Telegram Delivery Boy and the telegram are dripping with water, and that water never quite goes away. Quite the contrary: it becomes the show's most powerful metaphor, as well as the home of...the Octopus.

Patrick Alparone is terrific as the younger and more insecure Blake, as is Eric Kerr as his more distant partner Kevin. It is Kevin who has instigated the evening of sex with strangers, to Blake's nervous discomfort, but it is Blake who is prettier and more desirable. This leads to an unforeseen set of circumstances that bring us to a dark and watery world where saying you love someone is not nearly enough.

Clearly, we will all have to meet the Octopus. As Andy (Brad Erickson), the man who has been tossed aside, intones from the depths: "No one has ever bested this beast."

"Octopus" is hard to define -- part farce, it stings with truth. Highest praise to a young writer with a unique and many-armed talent.

RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼ 1/2 BANG!

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards 'Octopus' one star for the writing -- a rare combination of grand story telling with farcical twists. Kate Warner's flawless direction rates half a star, and Erik Flatmo's set design (oooh, that Bjork poster) and Jarrod Fischer's surreal lighting earn half a star each. The last star is for the ensemble of actors, with a special BANGLE of Praise for Rowan Brooks's Telegram Delivery Boy. All the acting is superb, but no one expects Brooks to go where he goes. Three and a half stars with a BANGLE of Praise, and when we see it again we may up it to Four Stars. The show is that good.

Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Wed.-Sun. through June 8; $40-$45 (sliding scale on Wednesday)


jj-aka-pp said...

Director Kate Warner? Um, did you read her bio? Perhaps from Atlanta? Just curious...

DAK said...

Yes, JJ-aka-PP, you are correct. 'Octopus' had its World Premiere in Atlanta, earlier this year, as part of Actor's Express. Kate directed it there, and then they brought it here with a new cast.