A History of Cobbling
nytheatre.com review by Ethan Angelica
August 18, 2009
OK, I'll admit it: I picked A History of Cobbling because of the name and the description. What sounds more delightful than a short play about the discovery of a twelve-inch tall English cobbler on a deserted city street? I expected a charming and quick entertainment. So, who would have thought that my reviewing partner and I would spend a good half-hour after the show comparing what we had just seen to the works of Albee and Ionesco? And each have a different take on the underlying meaning of the work? While certainly a charmer, A History of Cobbling also tackles some fascinating questions about relationships, love, and trust in a dynamic and engaging way that still has me thinking about them 24 hours later.
The play centers around the relationship of Michael and his wife Lorraine, performed by authors Justin Klose and Cameron Reed, and their truly surprising days. Michael met a diminutive cobbler on his way home from work, and is eager to tell his wife of the discovery. Lorraine, who speaks in long, winding sentences littered with malapropisms and tangential stories, has also made an unusual discovery in their house. The play unravels itself around a kitchen table with a series of stories and random lists, highlighting the mundane ways we relate to those we love and the fantastical highs of the strange and absurd. Not everything at play is said, and it's not difficult to hear the daily conversations—and omissions—that we all undergo with our own loved ones. It is at times laugh-out-loud funny, and at others touchingly somber.
As a production, A History of Cobbling would not be nearly as effective without the stellar performances that accompany this fine script. Klose's Michael is charmingly earnest and sweet, while Reed's Lorraine is the perfect blend of quirky and sincere. Both are magnificent storytellers, with the uncanny ability to capture you in a rambling, complicated tale and make it seem perfectly clear. It is their strong use of the difficult language they have written for themselves that really brings the play to life. Director Bill Oliver keeps the play moving beautifully and draws out strong, specific performances from his actors. Jarrod Beck's kitchen interior set is exceptional, and provides a perfect play space for the actors.
Often at FringeNYC, we lose ourselves in wild and whimsical new works that push the bounds of irreverence and outlandishness. While I love these extremes too, it is refreshing to see a charming and simple play that tackles such complicated and common questions with grace and delicacy. For a wonderful story, some food for thought and a delightful set of performances, be sure to catch A History of Cobbling.