The Goods Are Odd
nytheatre.com review by Robert Buckwalter
August 23, 2006
There's an old adage in Alaska, often seen on car bumpers and T-shirts that states, "The Odds Are Good, But The Goods Are Odd." The saying refers to the notion that women stand a very high chance of meeting men in a state where they are (or were once) greatly outnumbered, though the pickable bunch may be a little unusual, at best. This is the subject matter for Smart and Attractive Productions' presentation of, The Goods Are Odd, written and performed by Julie Sharbutt and Liz Wisan. Unfortunately, these two talented and funny actresses have hemmed themselves in by the characters they have created.
Sharbutt and Wisan, (both New Yorkers), play several different Alaskan "types" in short sketches, giving us a peek into the (un-romantic) lives of the northerners, both native and transplanted, attempting to explore the Herculean task of finding romance in a place, where in fact, the odds are not so good. That attempt relies mostly on caricatured stereotypes (simple-minded country folk among others) that are funny at times, but only as funny as the same joke can be for 50 minutes. While there is certainly a place for caricatures in sketch comedy, this piece is in need of something more: a sense of purpose.
The characters portrayed range from young pool-hall types to older, rustic romantics, to young college plopped-ins exploring countless opportunities, to older sophisticates who are too good for the local lot but enjoyably playing the wide open field, and all of them, looking for love in mostly the wrong places. The audience though, is often not sure who these characters are talking to (at times an interview setting? other times, themselves?) but mostly, I asked myself, why? Why Alaska? (Factually speaking, women make up 48.3% of the population of Alaska, just 2% below the national average.) Why are the issues that these characters face in their search for love any different in the great wide open (outside of the caricatures) than say, the Lower East or Upper West Sides of Manhattan? I'm still not sure; they seem to me to be universal themes that are in this case set in a clichéd backdrop and tend to get old rather quickly.
These two performers do have spirit though and commit fully to the piece. The problem is, these one-dimensional caricatures are limited to being funny, or more importantly, interesting, for a very short period. If we are going to be asked to follow them for any amount of time, and care about them at all, we will need to see something more. For the most part, we do not.
Director Mo Fathelbab helps keep the piece tight with fluid scene changes.