MOCK THE KNIFE
nytheatre.com review by Evan Crook
Less than two minutes into Mock the
Knife, my friend and I realized we were the only two of the twelve
audience members who did not have personal ties to the artists involved.
Why does this matter? Well, as the rest of those in attendance laughed
at almost everything emanating from the actors’ mouths, I could not help
feeling that this show was a private joke to which only insiders were
privy. Perhaps they laughed because the star/author, Eric Bland, was
behaving just as he does when entertaining in his living room. Or maybe
it was because he was doing something very different from what his
friends are used to seeing him do as they socialize on the sofa.
Whatever the case, I did not get it.
August 15, 2003
Although there are two actors, Eric Bland and Charlie Hewson, this is very much Bland’s show. As a playwright, Bland is clearly intelligent and possesses a satiric sense of humor. His monologues are filled with references suggesting the span of his education and his tongue-in-cheek wit. However, all good storytelling is based on the basic principles of Aristotelian drama: action, conflict, and reversals. Mock The Knife, lacking these pillars, is an intermittently clever stream of conscious rant on a theme that is not quite clear.
As an actor, Bland is anything but his name. He is extremely charismatic. The feverish pace at which he speaks, sometimes difficult to understand, provides a throbbing rhythm to the piece that is at times almost musical. But charisma without focus does not a performance make. Bland is an amoeba of ungrounded energy. Because the piece plays like an extended monologue, Hewson, is left with little to do or play.
One difficulty with a play written for the writer to also perform is that it is nearly impossible to tell what the contributions of the director are. This certainly holds true here. Nonetheless, it is the director’s responsibility to assert his vision on a production, and it seems that director Josh Boak was either unable or unwilling to rein his star. Aside from the pure shock value of having his actors eat soap and lick sticks of butter (or margarine) like ice cream cones, Boak makes little use of his props, actors, or the space.
As a play, Mock The Knife fails on the fundamental level. There is no sense of forward direction, no dramatic tension. If there is an underlying theme, then it is communicated poorly.