nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
March 25, 2005
I’ve seen shows that are a series of one-acts where the producers have asked the playwrights to base their work on an object or an idea. Usually the playwrights are given the freedom to be as subtle as they please so long as the incorporate the object/idea in some way. In the case of Sin, a program of short plays from On the Leesh Productions about the seven deadly sins, some of the playwrights are so subtle that I had trouble making the connections between their plays and their sin.
The evening is hosted by M.C. Eric Walton who plays a burlesque magician and, as it turns out, offers the audience some of the most entertaining moments of the night. He and his assistants operate as segues and stage crew for the transitions between plays, but I couldn’t help thinking: why doesn’t this guy have his own show? I really enjoyed his performance and it is a clever device for entertaining the audience during the transitions, but I couldn’t understand how these characters connected to the rest of the show.
The first sin we see is Greed. Titled The Company Kept, this one actually attacks its subject directly and playwright Daria Polatin creates three good characters but the story is not particularly fresh and the ending is vague. Following this is T.C. Higgins’s perspective on Sloth, The Blasphemy Tree. Higgins’s play is one of the best in the group. It actually taught me something. All this time I always thought of sloth as meaning laziness or procrastination, but Higgins showed me that it can also mean apathy. Next we look at the sin of Envy, in a play aptly titled Envy. Playwright Hettienne Park explores the subject through a mother/daughter relationship where the mother is envious of her daughter’s freedom. While it is certainly a powerful moment of discovery when the mother’s envy is revealed, Park glaringly neglects to have the daughter recognize that her mother is losing her mind. Comparatively, the envy seems insignificant. Rounding out the first act is Josh Ben Friedman’s hilarious and insightful vision of Wrath, entitled Removing the Head. Friedman does an excellent job setting up the act of wrath and I felt for the first time in the program a playwright was examining the psychological motives behind their respective sin.
Act Two begins with James Scruggs’s ingenious portrayal of Lust in his one-man play Danny’s Line. Early in the piece, Scruggs makes the point that his character is aging and overweight. He lusts after beautiful young men and this lust has led to the character’s issues with self esteem. What isn’t clear is why, if the character is so driven by lust, did he let himself go. The next sin is Gluttony. Playwright Damian Luaiye broaches the subject in Sate (meaning to satisfy fully) but that is the exact opposite of what I felt after watching this piece. The only thing gluttonous in it is the case of Twinkies on the floor. Finally, we are presented with the sin of Pride. Ellen Shanman’s Good Help is most definitely funny and I liked the characters, but the connections to pride are vague at best. The program says that there is supposed to be one last play on the subject of Virtue, but the night I was there it didn’t happen. There was no explanation offered.
All sixteen actors do an outstanding job with their roles. Some of the highlights include Jeffery Thompson as the lustful man in Danny’s Line, Mikki Jordan as the envious mother in Envy, and Katie Barrett as the Twinkie glutton in Sate.
Directors Dan Fields and John Ruocco each do a good job with their shows. Both directors match one another's pace, giving the two-hour program an even and sharp atmosphere. I especially liked the levels of emotion created by Ruocco in Blasphemy Tree and in Envy. Fields, on the other hand, does a good job pulling out the comedy in all four of the plays he has directed.
Technically the show looks great. Jessica Jahn’s costume all work well, Peter Michael Garcia’s sound design is fine and the lighting design by Chris Conti and Chris Reising is quite attractive.
Sin has its moments. It has some clever lines, some terrific performances, and of course a little magic from the host. I would say this production is worth the price of the ticket.