Saturday, June 6, 2009

Review - Squiggy and the Goldfish (Theatre of the Small-Eyed Bear)

Review by Byrne Harrison

You know you're having a bad day when you find out your goldfish, the one that's been telling you to break up with your fiancee, has the ultimate power over whether you live or die.

That is exactly the situation in which Squiggy Finkelstein (Josh Breslow) finds himself in Lenny Schwartz deceptively amusing Squiggy and the Goldfish. While he's pretty sure he loves his fiancee, Veronica (Katrina Ylimaki), despite her cheating, condescension and abuse, Goldie (Eric C. Bailey) wants him to break it off with her. When Squiggy meets a sweet young pet store employee, Blossom (Elyse Ault), whose background of abuse is similar to his own, he is tempted to follow Goldie's advice. But can he really throw off a lifetime of baggage, even for a shot a true love? And is everything in his bizarre life what it seems?

Things are bizarre indeed in Squiggy's world. He is emotionally scarred from his father's abuse and suicide (on Christmas, no less), from his fiancee's contempt, and from his best friend's (Joe Testa) betrayal. He is also literally scarred because he escapes from the pain in his life by cutting himself. Then of course there's the talking goldfish with godlike powers that is trying to get Squiggy to see something - something he doesn't want to see - that will allow him to move past the trauma that is keeping him stuck in his increasingly surreal life and move on - perhaps to true love, or perhaps to something even bigger - acceptance. To reveal too much more gives away the critical secret of the play, suffice it to say Squiggy and the Goldfish ends on a hopeful note.

The acting in Squiggy is superb, with praise to Josh Breslow as the hapless Squiggy, Elyse Ault as Blossom, and Katrina Ylimaki as Veronica. Breslow in particular does an outstanding job dealing with the subtle changes in character that come with each revelation about Squiggy's past. The nebishy Squiggy of the opening scenes is nothing like the raw and exposed Squiggy at the end of the play, and Breslow excels at both.

Directed with aplomb by Michael Roderick, who keeps the production visually stimulating and moving at a brisk clip, the production is able to gloss over some of the weaker moments of the script.

Set designer Elisha Schaefer, whose set has to work for the other two plays in the Get S.O.M.! series (Ore, or Or and Mare Cognitum), has created a versatile set that gives each play a unique feel. He is to be commended for his work.

Theatre of the Small-Eyed Bear (TotSEB) is a collaboration between Theatre of the Expendable, Small Pond Entertainment, and Cross-Eyed Bear Productions. This unique repertory merger allows the companies to share costs, so they can provide three times the entertainment without three times the cost.

Squiggy and the Goldfish
Written by Lenny Schwartz
Directed by Michael Roderick
Assistant Directors: Alexander Koo, Allison Mosier
Stage Manager: Josh Yocom
Set Designer: Elisha Schaefer
Lighting Designer: Wilburn Bonnell
Costume Designer: Jennifer Raskopf
Sound Designer: Jared M. Silver
Props Designer: Jesse Louis Hathaway
Associate Lighting Designer: Victoria Miller
Sound Board Operator: Victoria Watson
Press Representative: Emily Owens PR
Industry Representative: Scotti Rhodes
Graphic Designer: Duncan Pflaster
Website Designer: Ashley Avis
Arts in Action Series Producer: Laura Moss
Associate Producers: Emily Simoness, Margie Kment
Production Manager: Norah Turnham
Producers: Alexander Koo, Arienne Pelletier, Duncan Pflaster, Michael Roderick, Jesse Edward Rosbrow

Featuring: Dana Aber (Mother), Elyse Ault (Blossom), Eric C. Bailey (Goldie), Josh Breslow (Squiggy), Jonathan Miles (Dr. Kevorkian, Pappy), Sarah Novotny (Female Police Officer, Young Man, Geeky Girl), Joe Testa (Wally), Katrina Ylimaki (Veronica)

The Workshop Theatre
312 W. 36th Street

Closed May 30th.

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