SHARKY’S DEN OF SUNKEN PLEASURE
nytheatre.com review by Fred Backus
Right off the bat, I should mention that FringeNYC was unable to find a
suitable venue to accommodate a trapeze safely. Alas, there is no
trapeze act in this piece.
August 15, 2003
What’s left? Well, we are treated to a behind-the-scenes look in Sharky’s Den of Sunken Pleasure at the eponymous underwater cabaret owned and operated by Sharky (Lea Bender), a greedy and egotistical shark who is not exactly what he appears to be. His aquatic cohorts include Emeelio’da Eel (Damacio), Sharky’s simpering "yes" man; Gloria Goldfish (Patricia Rose), his "soapaholic" cocktail waitress; performer Nannette Bubblette (Lana Shively), Sharky’s ex-wife who is still perfecting her French accent; and Madame Succula Tentaculara, a giant octopus whom Sharky has locked in the water closet who can transform even the most talentless sea denizen into a full-fledged aquatic diva. Wandering into their world is society woman Francine Flounders (Phoebe Southwood), who for some reason they see as the perfect addition to their act, if only she will accept the ministrations of Madame Succula and find her true calling.
To say that this plot has twists and turns would be to imply that it has some direction in the first place. Nor can one just sit back and enjoy it as a zany romp. The gags are lame and poorly executed, the situations clich�d in the rare moments they are not completely nonsensical, and there is no sense of pacing or choreography to be found anywhere. Lack of direction would indeed appear to be the main problem, for Sharky’s Den of Sunken Pleasure stands out glaringly as hopelessly amateurish in a festival that is less and less forgiving of such endeavors in comparison to the ever-increasing number of high quality artists and projects participating every year.
Admittedly, the cavernous expanse of Cooper Union’s Great Hall does not help this production make a connection to the audience or highlight the details of some of the imaginative costumes and masks, though other companies have been able to bridge this barrier. Overall, one feels that these folks from San Francisco have been far too easy on themselves, for the piece feels as if it is designed to entertain their personal friends, rather than impress strangers across the country in an East Coast premiere. But who knows? Perhaps the trapeze act would have made everything fall into place.