nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 22, 2009
What a fantastic show! 666 is a "psycho visual comedy" conceived by the Spanish theater troupe Yllana that follows four death-row inmates through a series of irreverent episodes—some realistic and set within their shared prison cell, others downright farce (imagine two hanging bodies reviving one another to swing in rhythm to '80s rap music). Both styles of storytelling are performed impeccably. My only regret is that the show had to end.
We are brought into the non-speaking world of the play through our introduction to the four inmates. The characters are three bloodthirsty murderers and one innocent who is hopelessly out-of-place. The inmates eyeball the audience, each in turn selecting their victim and displaying how they would dismember him/her. When it comes time for the innocent to share, he is hopelessly inadequate. The others pressure him and he tries again, but still falls short of their standards. With his own life on the line he apologetically shrugs at the audience and proceeds to act out in great detail every act of violence or sexual force he can think of. The result? The others worry that they've been paired with a real nutcase.
This first interchange is only the tip of the iceberg for what's in store, but it sets the tone perfectly. 666 is a delightfully gratuitous adventure but its success does not hinge on cheap jokes. It's in the obvious skill and attention to detail of the show's performers and director.
Raul Cano, Fidel Fernandez, Joseph Michael O'Curneen, and Juan Ramos Toro are captivating storytellers. They perform such a wide range of emotions with such specificity that by the end of the performance it seems blasphemy that any show should have dialogue when so much can be done with a wink of an eye, a roll of a shoulder, or the swinging of an incredibly well-endowed prosthetic.
The company of actors engages us in wildly different brands of comedy, and each performer has his own quirks that bring a wonderful variation to the storytelling. Raul Cano performs with the vigor of a little boy looking for approval, establishing a back-and-forth relationship with the audience early on and then capitalizing on it journey after journey. Fidel Fernandez shapes characters ruled by their own vices, and displays such an exaggerated picture of self-obsession that the audience is left in stitches. Joseph Michael O'Curneen focuses primarily on the animalistic physicality of each of his characters, truly milking the details for every possible ounce of comedy. And finally there is Juan Ramos Toro, a towering figure whose stature is manipulated to blindside us with wildly unexpected character choices.
In each of the show's episodes, director David Ottone is absolutely in control of the story he wants to tell and the method he wishes to tell it. Every interchange is timed perfectly. Every choice is fully realized. Every ounce of fat has been trimmed. The audience is brought on a bawdy tour-de-force that earned these words from my guest at the show: "Shows like this make me remember why theatre exists in the first place."
Wait in the long line outside the Minetta Lane Theater. This show is well worth it.