Another Take on “Octopus”

Jason Gloye and Scot Greenwell in Octopus - photo by

So this morning I ran into my friend and theatre buddy, David.  I said, “I’m going to see ‘Octopus’ at the Phoenix Theatre tonight.  I won’t have media passes because I already saw it once, but would you like to go Dutch with me?  Tickets on Thursday nights are $15.”

“What time?”

“Thursday night performances start at 7:00.”

“Okay, yeah.  I can do that.  What’s it about?”

I love this about David.  He is a true theatre adventurer, game for anything, as long as it is not “Will Rogers Follies.”  He hated “Will Rogers Follies” when he saw it years ago, before he knew me.

“You mean you haven’t been reading my blog?” I teased.  “I wrote all about ‘Octopus’ the first time I saw the show.  In fact, I probably wrote too much.  I even was lucky enough to interview the playwright.  I wrote about that on my blog, too.”

“I never read the reviews before I see a show.  I read your blog afterwards.”

“Ah.  Well, ‘Octopus’ has mature content…”

“Oh, yeah, I did read about that.  But yeah, okay.  Let’s go.”

So we went. 

I felt completely differently about the show this time.  I still loved it, and I found new things to appreciate in it, but I felt….odd, afterwards.

I was still trying to figure out what I felt as David and I were walking to his car.  He said, “I am glad I got to see that, but I didn’t agree with any of them.  In fact, the play made me angry.”

I was surprised by the vehemence in his voice.  “What do you mean?”

“Those three guys ganging up on…what was his name?  Kevin?  All of them dumping their actions on him, blaming him, instead of taking responsibility themselves.  It is as easy to say “I own my actions” as it is to say “I love you.”  ‘Doesn’t mean a thing if they’re just words.”

Kevin (Jason Gloye) as victim?!??  I had not considered that possibility before at ALL.

David went on: “I wonder if the playwright meant to show that ‘watching’ is worse than ‘acting’ but it backfired on him.  Or maybe that was his point: that people who complain about the people who watch are really the ones at fault.

“Those other guys didn’t give Kevin a chance.  They didn’t let him explain.  They just put all of their stuff on him.  He was the only one actually doing anything.  He arranged the evening of sex.  He went to Max for help, twice.  He shared his feelings honestly AND stayed put.  He made the choice to stay with Blake and call him back.  Those two will be together forever now because of Kevin’s commitment.”

I was flabbergasted.  This was so completely different from what I had taken away from the show.  However, I loved that the play was so complex, so layered, as to evoke such different reactions in us.

Then David laughed.  “But I have to tell you, Hope.  When you say a show has ‘mature content,’ you really mean mature content.  I thought you meant just a little…well, I don’t know what I expected.  But not a bunch of naked guys all the way naked!”

By then we were both laughing.  I said, “I’m sorry!  I didn’t realize that you didn’t really know anything about this show!”  We laughed some more.

“All of those fellas were spectacular actors, though,” David said, when we had finally caught our breaths again.  “I forgot they were acting.  Not one, not ONE of them acted ‘at’ you.” 

David hates it when actors act at the audience.

“I wonder what a gay person would think after watching this show,” David mused.  “They (gay men) have a different context for it, so probably a different reaction.”

“Well,” I said.  “Please see my review of this show for at least two gay people’s reactions.” 

I did not say, but I was thinking, that it was fascinating to hear a straight man’s reaction to this show after hearing a gay couple’s reactions to it, and even more fascinating just to hear three different people’s very different reactions based on, I guess, their personalities and life experiences even more than their sexual orientations. It was as fascinating as…well, yes, as fascinating as watching other people have sex.

Or so I imagine.

“I think it’s about more than gay issues, though, don’t you think?” I asked.  “It’s about relationships in general.”

“Yes,” David said.  “It’s a vehicle.”

“The play wouldn’t have been as powerful if it had been two straight couples,” I said.  “I would have read things into the male roles vs. the female roles.  This way, they can all just be people.”

“Yeah, but I could see this play done with two straight couples, too…”

“With cancer instead of AIDS.”

“No, with AIDS.  Straight people get AIDS, too!  But the stereotype of gays is that they talk a lot, they talk easily, about their feelings or whatever.  So maybe it is better this way.” 

I should have told you from the beginning that none of the above, or below, is a direct quote.   I certainly wasn’t in note-taking mode as we were talking.  However, it is the gist of our post-show discussion, and David gave me permission to share his ideas (as I understand them) with you.

“That show was spectacular,” David said again, after we had been talking for a while. “I’m really glad I got to see it.  I’m going to have to be careful about who I recommend it to, though.”

“Because of the mature content?”

He laughed.  “No, I’m going to let them get hit over the head with that, the same way I was.  No, I mean because of the intensity.  It starts out funny, but then it becomes… I’m going to have to say to people, ‘Now be sure you’re in the mood for something intense.’  Because that was one intense play.”

“Intense” was my word for it, too.


“Octopus” was written by Steven Yockey and directed at the Phoenix by Bryan Fonseca.  It continues at the Phoenix Theatre through Saturday, July 11, 2009.  There are no Sunday performances, but Thursday nights are “Cheap Seat Nights,” thanks to Duke Energy.  Please call 317-635-PLAY to make a reservation.

By the way, actress Gayle Steigerwald and I saw each other at this show on opening night.  She was there again tonight, and happened to be sitting right next to me.   When the house lights came up at the end, she turned to me and said, “I love this play.”

“So do I,” I said.  “Same time next week?”

She laughed.  “Thursdays are Cheap Seats!”

“‘See you then!”

Hope Baugh –

4 thoughts on “Another Take on “Octopus””

  1. Hope,

    I’m sorry I missed you last night, but read on Twitter you were coming again, thank you! So interesting to read David’s thoughts and more of your’s. One of my biggest concerns about Kevin, and I talked with Bryan Fonseca about this at length, was that he is so strong and doesn’t get it for so long, that I didn’t want people to be annoyed Blake came back to him. The trick is for Kevin to “not get it” but for the audience to still want him to get it the whole time. Otherwise he’s just a jerk who doesn’t deserve Blake. I’m glad, at least with David, it seemed to work. It’s a precarious balance.

    Thanks again for coming, and for sharing your thoughts. And for being one Octopus’ biggest cheerleaders.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Hey Hope, ditto what Jason said – it’s wonderful that you came again, and thank you for the support and the kind words.

    I wanted to reinforce the observation that this play is about more than just gay issues and HIV/AIDS. ABSOLUTELY. It was hard for me to see past that when I first read it, but the play is about commitment. That’s why the Delivery Boy shows up and what he and Blake are trying to get through to Kevin. TDB says, “I am what happens when people don’t care.” Blake says, “Say it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter.” Max also says, “I should have said it doesn’t matter…” He goes on from there, and I sympathize with him. But yeah – Kevin needs to push through his fear. As you pointed out previously – that’s a difficult thing to do, especially in Kevin’s situation.

    I see what your friend David was saying about Kevin and the other men, owning actions, etc. But I’m glad you both saw beyond the actions of the first scene. There are still more actions taken, which produce tough consequences.

  3. It was great running into you the other day at Henry’s. I glad you enjoy the show. (And keep enjoying it!) This is an interesting look on the play from Kevin’s perspective. Not quite sure if I could ever quite sympathize for him though….but I am a little biased!

  4. Thanks very much, Jason, Scot, and Ben, for reading and for your thoughtful comments! Ben, I enjoyed running into you at Henry’s, too.


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