A First and Fourth Viewing of “Octopus”

"Takoyaki Inside" photo by Sara Goldsmith

I wasn’t going to write about my fourth viewing of “Octopus” at the Phoenix Theatre, but then “Debby” (I know her full name but she does not review frequently so I am not sure she wants her full name to be public) wrote about her first viewing of it on Indiana Auditions, and I couldn’t help writing back, especially since I have the day off from my day job today.  Below are both of our posts to the full thread on IA:

Debby wrote:

I got to see the show tonight and I’m trying to pull together some thoughts before going to bed because I’ve got a couple busy days ahead so this is my chance. I think, though, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to wait because this is the type of show that marinates in your mind and develops over time, I’m sure. But I’m awfully excited about it and not keen on that delayed gratification thing so here goes:

This show is TOTALLY AWESOME and you should get yourself out to see it. The script is wonderful, tight, well-written, multi-layered. Funny! Touching. Sad. Scary! The actors are, to a man, wonderful. No one made a false step. Seriously. The set is nice, but the staging is wicked beyond belief! There were lighting and other effects that really took me out of the little Mass Ave theatre to places far away.

I love that a story that seemed so specific, a story about two couples’ sexual adventure (or misadventure) and the consequences, could actually be so universal and far-ranging. I loved seeing the contrast between the couples. They really could have been each other at different stages. I wondered if Kevin and Blake hadn’t been confronted by a demanding consequence if Kevin wouldn’t have grown into Max? If that playful “let’s go for it” attitude wouldn’t have turned into Max’s never-satisfied predation? And I loved the touch of magic realism in the show and chewing over what the ocean represented. I’m still deciding. The water theme was so neatly woven throughout.

I love that the characters were so real and the actors did a great job bringing them to life. Well, one character was not–Scot Greenwell’s telegram delivery boy, but he made even this bizarre, otherworldly character believable in the context of the story. Dang, somebody should have installed a peephole in that apartment door! Don’t open it! He was wonderful at being comical yet menacing from the get-go.

At different times throughout the show, my sympathy went out to different characters. Ben Snyder’s Blake had it in the beginning. His concern for his relationship and his obvious discomfort with the situation that his partner dragged him into tugged at me. Later, when the second couple arrived, I felt bad for Ricardo Melendez’s Andy as his partner Max dismissed his interest in wine and ultimately dismissed him for a one-night stand. Still later, I found my heart aching for Nate Walden’s Max, which was a big surprise. Although fun to watch, he’d been a bit of a jerk through the whole thing, denigrating Andy, stalking Blake like a toy or a mouse then treating Kevin badly when he reached out for answers in the coffee shop. When his loss finally hit him, though, when he realized that he’d lost Andy and he was sinking into the ocean himself, Max was a heartbreaker. Finally, Kevin–Jason Gloye’s Kevin made misstep after misstep–the character, not the actor. He sets up a partner swap which his partner is not crazy about and then gets jealous that it’s happened. He seems not to notice that the water is rising until he’s in nearly over his head. He rejects his partner in a time of need. I felt bad for him, but I never really trusted him until about halfway through his final battle with the telegram delivery guy. He finally proved his mettle and made all the difference.

And if you can’t go for any of this stuff, for the great story and the excellent actors, go for the amazing special effects. There are light and sound effects that are beautiful and scary and there are stage effects that just have to be seen to be believed. Kudos to the Phoenix for never worrying about how messy it might get! We saw the Inishmore show last year (was it last year?) and I didn’t think anything could top all. that. blood. Yea.

Anyway, great show and you should see it.

Then I wrote:

Yay!  Debby, I am so glad you made the time to write about this show!  As I said to you last night, I always love to read your reviews.  They always give me new insights into a show.  I have now seen and loved “Octopus” four times but until I read your review I didn’t think about how Kevin might have become Max if Kevin and Blake’s relationship hadn’t been so deeply challenged.  So true!

 I know what you mean about the marinating thing, too.  The first time I saw this show, I laughed at several of the expressions (both verbal and facial) and was turned on by the sexy, naked men, and felt awe over the special effects.  The second time I saw this show, I got a completely different intellectual take on it from the friend that went with me.   The third time I saw this show, I went by myself, started crying the moment we joined Andy at the bottom of the ocean and pretty much cried nonstop to the end of the show.  I hadn’t expected that, so I was a real mess when the house lights came up, but I felt exhilarated with a feeling of hope.

Last night, I sat with a friend and had a thick, paper napkin ready…but no tears came until the “birthing” at the very end.  But later, when I got home, I felt almost unbearable loneliness as I thought some more about the play.  I mean, I had had a great time hanging out with my friend, J.C., and it was icing on the cake to chat a little with you and the rest of the Spotlight gang, but when I was left with my own thoughts, I couldn’t help wondering if I will ever love someone enough to call them back from the bottom of the ocean.  I cried some more then…and slept deeply.

 Funny, how one play can evoke such a range of emotions and physical reactions over multiple viewings.

 Anyway, thanks again for writing.

I wish I had time to see this show a fifth time!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

Email: amarylliswriter at gmail dot com

Twitter: IndyTheatre

PS – You might be wondering about the significance of the photo, above, in terms of this post.   Sara Goldsmith took it and called it “Takoyaki Inside.”

“Takoyaki” means “octopus balls” in Japanese.  They are a delicious, ball-shaped, sauce-covered snack that you can buy from street vendors in Japan.  English speakers, of course, get a kick out of the idea of eating an octopus’ balls.  In the photo above, you can see one of the balls split open to reveal a piece of cooked octopus.   Debby used the word “marinates” in her review and I think the show is ballsy and then there’s the title of it, so..

Okay, maybe the photo is a stretch.  Probably I should quit blogging for the moment and go get some lunch.  ‘See you at the theatres!

5 thoughts on “A First and Fourth Viewing of “Octopus””

  1. Andrew, thank you! I really appreciate getting to read your comments on this show, too. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I’m going to percolate for a while on the idea of theatre audiences needing “heightened dialogue” to feel satisfied.

    Here is your direct link again because it didn’t connect before:

    http://andrewswriting.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/seesupport/#respond

    The other play you mentioned in your post sounds interesting, too.

    Thanks, again, for reading and responding. Best of luck with your own plays, too.

  2. Thanks for the direct link, wasn’t quite sure why it didn’t work out in the first post. 🙂

    As far as audiences needing “heightened dialogue” to feel satisfied, I simply mean the words spoken in a play are inherently “heightened” because they are CHOSEN by the playwright. This automatically makes them “less-realistic” than in real life. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, in fact, it’s one of the reasons why theatre is a continued forum for social change and discussion and good ole’ fashioned entertainment!

    See you at the theatres- I always enjoy hearing your thoughts. Did you ever get around to seeing “BENT” at the Theatre Within. I know you blogged about intending too…

  3. I think it must be a big challenge for a playwright to choose words that are artistic and thought-provoking, yet also believable.

    Anyway, thank you for your kind words about my blog. I was very sad not to see “Bent” at the Theatre Within!

  4. That’s one of the things Steve Yockey does well in Octopus, yes. A lot of contemporary plays actially heighten language so it’s pushong the boundries of realism and transcends into poetry. Playwright Jose Rivera says writing a play is more like writing a poem than an essay or a novel. Something I keep in mind when working on my own writing 🙂

    Look forward to your future posts!

Leave a Reply