Sunday, May 25, 2008

Octopus at The Magic

I was at the Saturday night performance of Steve Yockey's new play Octopus at the Magic Theatre in Fort Mason. It's a joint production with Encore Theatre Company. First things first: the big attraction of this show is the 1st scene, depicting some serious group sex flippantly orchestrated by the play's anti-hero. 4 male actors appear completely naked, & the foreplay is explicit. Fortunately our cast is fit, trim &, in at least one case, unusually pretty. It does the shower scene from Take Me Out one better. Come to think of it, Take Me Out was the last play I saw, so I guess we now know what it takes to get me out for an evening of theater...

The come-on of this 1st scene quickly gives way to catastrophic consequences. More likely to be talked about than the sex scene are the increasingly fantastical turns the action takes. A telegram delivery boy shows up dripping wet for no apparent reason. Characters vanish. Water seeps into apartments from no discernible source. A fearful monologue is set at the bottom of the sea. & the water in this production is real. As if we were about to see Shamu the Killer Whale, a sign at the box office warns us that the first row is likely to get wet.

It's an angry story about gay relationships, AIDS, simple consideration for others & love. The tone & focus sometimes shift strangely, but the dramatic situations always had my attention. The play feels like it's one re-write away from being brilliant.

There's a lot of physicality, & the characters' distress quickly becomes extreme. The cast does a terrific job with all this. I liked Patrick Alparone's pretty boy looks & expressive face. It's perfect casting. Rowan Brooks is at first lightly comic but then frighteningly potent.

During the curtain calls, they announced that the run has been extended, so check it out. It's a compact, intermissionless 80 minutes, & it will give you something you'll want to talk about.

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