nytheatre.com review by Richard Stroker
The actors in The
Overcoat, the one-act musical that opened Friday night, perform like
brilliant surgeons diligently working to resuscitate a comatose patient
of a play.
August 15, 2002
The Overcoat is based on the short story of the same title written in 1842 by Nikolai Gogol. Set in mid-19th century St. Petersburg, it revolves around Akaky Akakievich, (compellingly played by Steven Goldstein) a lowly clerk in a drab office full of co-workers who pester him while performing monotonous tasks.
When Alaky goes to the local tailor to repair his pathetically tattered coat, the tailor (Tim Shew) persuades him to have a new one made. This new coat catapults Akaky’s status in life to new heights. However, Alaky’s sartorially-induced high is brought to a chilling halt when thugs steal his beloved overcoat. But he fights for revenge.
The actress Glenn Close once said that acting is moving molecules. Shew, playing several roles, integrates his voice and physicality to move molecules to great effect. Anna Stone is terrific in her roles; she’s particularly convincing and humorous when playing drunk. Hiromi Naruse and Jared Zeus completely commit to their characters. Director Nick Corley has sculpted a rock-solid cast.
The set design, by John Gregor, is creative, efficient and effective. It proves you don’t need a lot of money for a good set, just ingenuity—mind over money. Sets are changed seamlessly by the actors.
Robert Rival’s music adequately conveys the story-line, but lacks energy and melodic mettle. Gregor’s book and lyrics are sufficient. But it seems to have lost something in translation. The story that’s captivated readers for over 150 years falls flat on stage. Time-honored literature doesn’t easily transmute to musical theater, but FringeNYC is an appropriate venue to try it. While The Overcoat likely won’t become the next Les Misirables, Rival and Gregor are to be applauded for their creative risk-taking.