Group: HotCity Theatre
Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Bldg, 501 North Grand
Dates: May 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30
Tickets: From $15 to $25; contact 314-289-4063 or www.hotcitytheatre.org
Story: Phil has a problem. He is in love with a beautiful woman who doesn’t know he exists. That’s odd, you’d think, because they work in the same office, he as an assistant to his accountant friend Norman, and Sophia as secretary to the imposing boss, Mr. Marley. To Phil’s way of thinking, Sophia is oblivious to him because he’s a nice guy and she’s a beautiful woman, and beautiful women never are attracted to nice guys. Don’t even acknowledge them, as a matter of fact. Phil’s college degree in philosophy enables him to grasp such fundamental, if painful, truths.
Indomitable fellow that he is, though, Phil is determined to win Sophia’s heart, and enlists exasperated Norman’s help, even if it is the 11th hour as surprisingly lonely Sophia contemplates marriage to the twice-divorced Marley, a preppie sort who fashions his pocket kerchief into a crown and talks incessantly on his Bluetooth phone in search of some mysterious documents. So how can Phil enter Sophia’s reality?
Highlights: Winner of HotCity’s 2008 Greenhouse New Play Festival, this two-act comedy by William Missouri Downs delivers an evening’s worth of laughs thanks to Marty Stanberry’s smooth and lively direction and the top-notch comic talents of his quartet of players. Downs’ program bio states that he’s written 20 plays that have been performed nearly 100 times around the world, as well as authored a textbook called The Art of Theatre that is used in more than 100 universities. In short, he knows how to write, and Cockeyed is written quite well.
Other Info: That said, the first act of this two-act comedy is substantially funnier than the second, when the script struggles to reach a satisfying conclusion, and “concludes” no fewer than three times before its amusing denouement. Nevertheless, it’s rewarding and humorous stuff and given a most delightful interpretation by Adam Flores, Jennifer Nitzband, Paul Pagano and Tyler Vickers, all coached convincingly by Stanberry.
Flores, as Phil, ingratiates himself to the audience with an endearing and effervescent portrayal. At each roadblock in his romantic quest he proffers the theory, “I know what you’re thinking,” and then dutifully recites the birth and death years and groundbreaking ruminations of noted philosophers, from Plato and Socrates to Nietzsche and Locke, who support his argument for his lovelorn quest. Flores is eminently likable throughout, a critical component to accepting this often silly play.
Nitzband brings her own zany qualities to the frustrated Sophia, who lives in an apartment below one occupied by her incessantly meddling mother, and sports a false eye to boot, a device which yields a rich comic lode. Pagano has a nicely frenzied and manic touch as the addled accountant, and Vickers is consistently amusing as the self-absorbed Marley (perhaps Scrooge’s business partner’s uninformed descendant?).
Alex Gaines’ set design brackets Sophia’s messy living quarters with an office kitchen and Norman’s cloistered office, while Michael Sullivan’s lighting moves smoothly back and forth to cover scenes in each area. Felia Davenport’s costumes are highlighted by Vickers’ classy threads and the non-descript attire of the invisible Phil, Tom Myrda adds the suitable props and Jeff Griswold provides the kitschy sound design, complete with Sophia’s beloved Bee Gees.
Cockeyed is funny from its title to its over-delayed conclusion, and certainly worth a look with good eyes or glassy ones.
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.