Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Review: Oedipussy

Curio Theatre's production of Oedipussy, adapted from Spymonkey, featuring Paul Kuhn, Brian McCann, Aetna Gallagher and Harry Slack, directed by John Bellomo, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield.

Review: Oedipussy


By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

Curio Theatre's had a pretty good run lately, but you wouldn't know it from the way it starts off its newest work, Oedipussy. A comic adaptation of British theater troupe Spymonkey's adaptation of Sophocles' classical tale of father-murdering and mother-loving, they quote from a review ostensibly written by my Inquirer colleague Toby Zinman, calling them "inexperienced middle-aged actors" and griping, "It's like watching a talking book that doesn't talk very well."

Thus demoralized, Curio artistic director Paul Kuhn, costume designer Aetna Gallagher, actor-about-town Brian McCann (each moving fast toward 50) and young actor-playwright Harry Slack, set about proving their physical stage fitness. Leaping, climbing, hurling themselves around the simple set while downing painkillers, they barrel through the tragedy in a hilarious and weirdly touching meditation on life, love, theater, and aging gracelessly.

Directed by John Bellomo, there's plenty of slapstick, and a bit or two may drag, but mostly Curio makes Spymonkey's work its own. The production is about as subtle as the ancients liked it: The oft-consulted Oracle is two beach ball-sized googly eyes that have an unsettling habit of bouncing away. Gallagher's costumes range from ridiculous to ridiculously sublime (a dress with extra arms to help illustrate Jocasta's suicide-by-hanging). Oedipussy (McCann) and Jocasta (Gallagher) sing a deliriously cheesy love song, accented by Kuhn's sax-and-clarinet solos. And brief monologues by cast members examine their own personal tragedies and humiliations.

Spymonkey might have its niche figured out - it's taken some classics into its zany wheelhouse, and performs in Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity. But likewise, Curio's season, incorporating this work and Gender Comedy (Slack's original take on Twelfth Night) alongside its usual standards, points to a company not settling into middle age but taking some risks and hitting its stride.

After reading Zinman's critiques, the team announces, "Toby Zinman, this one's for you." I can't claim to speak for her, but I suspect she'd be pleased with the honor. Either way, I'm happy to add another review to the positive pile.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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