There is no better place to see a show about sin than the basement of a church. Evil exists everywhere in the world, but you can’t have sin without religion to point it out. Religion, like theater, is an endless cycle of sin, self-awareness, and redemption, but in theater, unlike religion, it is sin that is the big draw.
So Speakeasydc brings us seven sinning monologists; together they embrace the seven deadlies. Make no mistake, though: these are not super-sinners. The greedhead is not Bernie Madoff, for example, and the lust-er did not get it on with Madonna during one of her shows. These are ordinary folks, and their sins, like the ones St. Augustine talks about in the Confessions, are of the garden variety.
The theory behind the show is solid, but the execution is weak. If you are basing your expectations on last year’s brilliant Revenge of the Cat-Headed Baby or Speakeasy’s excellent Chocolate Jesus, I’m sorry to report that you are headed for a disappointment.
If all the monologues were like the one on envy with which Seaton Smith closes the show, this would be a Hell of a night. Smith recreates his college days, radiant with pretension, as all of ours were, inhabiting a half-dozen characters – including his own (self) righteous self – with such conviction that it is hard not to share his hostility toward his victim, even though the poor guy hadn’t done anything wrong.
I also liked The Sin Show’s stories of pride (Joseph Price) and lust (Saurabh Tak). Price tells his story in a sort of harsh monotone which initially is a little off-putting but comes to fit in nicely with his content. It seems that he once had a successful student production of a play he wrote in undergraduate school; this event turned him, by his own admission, into a theater god. The obliviousness with which he makes bad choice after bad choice in the belief that he has been transformed into Edward Albee, but young, makes his story breathtakingly funny.
The principal virtue of Tak’s story (aside from it being about, you know, sex) is the way he juxtaposes his rococo language with the crudeness of his libido-driven desires. At first it seems as though you are being propelled through a pre-war literary novel, but eventually everything comes down to sex. Perhaps it is that way for you, too.
The rest of the sins are not as much fun. Vivianne Njoku has some amusing things to say about sloth in L.A., but her story ends abruptly, when she runs out of money. The setup for John Kevin Boggs’ story about gluttony is funny, but after he decides to stop eating so damn much there’s nothing for us to do but wait for the story to end. Meredith Maslich’s recounting of greed is mostly sad, with an ending which you will anticipate from about the fifth line. And Mike Boyd personifies anger by telling a story of his miserable childhood in which he is more sinned against than sinner.
Note: for those of you following along on your programs, the closing order was changed after opening night.
Directed by Amy Couchoud and Amy Saidman
Produced by SpeakeasyDC
Reviewed by Tim Treanor