“Epicene” may have been performed in a modest little theater at the 14st YMCA in New York City this past week, with an equally as modest director in Tom Berger, introducing the show beforehand, but make no mistake about it, this performance was anything but.
Seeing a muppet-esque genitalia at the end of the performance clarifies that even further.
Laugh-out-loud funny, with a tremendously talented cast, this play was the epitome of a fantastically produced independent theatre production.
The trio of Dauphine, Truewit and Clerimont, played charmingly by Michael Kirby, Josh Odsess-Rubin and Christopher Norwood were sensational and immediately gave the performance the depth to shine. Feeling like an episode of “Seinfeld,” [with the classic Jonson elements tinkered with slightly to provide a fresh coat of paint on this little-known play] these three have the entire audience fooled throughout the performance, as their antics and treachery come off incredibly natural and confident. However, of the three, it is Odsess-Rubin that steals the show, playing both loyal comrade and wacky conspirator in a way that makes you believe you’ll be hearing his name much more in theatre circles over the next few years.
The same thing goes for Robert Gonzalez Jr., whose portrayal of Morose is hilarious. Hating any type of noise at all, he goes to incredulous measures to keeps things quiet and fails miserably. As the play wears on, you see his pain and torment grow even further, making his performance well-rounded, multi-faceted and somehow, heartfelt.
Seriously, how would you feel if you found out the woman of your dreams, was well, not a woman at all?
This feeling is aided even further by Sarah Knittel, an exotic-looking actress, who goes from a pillar of femininity, to a nasty wench the next, to well, a dude, the last. Even if you’ve read this play before, seeing Knittel put her own spin on the character is an interesting one. While she is not the strongest character on the stage and her facial expressions were at times a bit puzzling, she’s believable in the role and proves to be a seasoned and talented actress.
With the amount of talent of the stage already, “Epicene” gets even higher marks because of its ability to get quality actors for nearly every role. Michael-Alan Reed is more than solid as Sir John Daw / Cutbeard / Captain Otter, going from a loquacious bachelor one second, to a frail husband the next, while Jack Cantor’s portrayal of Sir Amorous La Foole will put a smile on your face throughout. The remainder of the cast, consisting of Lucy Gillespie [Mistress Otter], Caitlin McColl [Madam Haughty], Victoria Miller [Mistress Centaur], Gina Marie Jameison [Mistress Mavis] and Kathryn Lawson [Boy / Mute / Parson / Mistress Trusty] are solid as well, giving the play pretty faces to look at that can do more than hold their own on stage as well.
Considering the fact that the talent on the stage for this performance can hold its own with any off-Broadway cast and the changes made to Jonson’s classic make it fresher than ever, Berger’s version of “Epicene” does the original work justice in more ways than one.
Photo by Erin Smiley