In My Own Defense
nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
August 16, 2013
In My Own Defense is a two-man show in this year’s New York International Fringe Festival. I sat through a performance of which, I couldn’t for the life of me explain what I just saw. Two men, dressed entirely in black, on a poorly lit stage, mumble through a series of events that I think may just have something to do with conquering the world.
I wish I could get into the narrative issues present in the show, but I find them completely obfuscated by the technical ones, so much so that they limit my ability to describe the rest. Let’s start with the sound levels: I couldn’t understand a word said by the main character, Victor (L.H. Mursy), in part because he wore a restrictive luchador style mask that limited the movement of his mouth, but moreover, and this is the most upsetting part of In My Own Defense, because despite the fact that there was a microphone on stage the whole show, he almost never spoke into it! Throughout the whole show, the microphone stand served as a frustrating totem emphasizing just how inaudible the dialogue was. To his credit, co-star David Woodard was much easier to understand, in part because he wore a less restrictive “Ninja Turtles” style mask, and because he actually enunciated. Lights were also an issue. Lights faded in and out constantly, changed colors, and several times went completely dark in the middle of sentences. This resulted in the show feeling like a tech rehearsal where the actors were quietly running lines while someone in the booth was programming cues, completely independent of each other. I got the feeling that a lot of the script was improvised on the fly, with just major notes to hit throughout, so that might explain the seeming randomness of the light changes, but that hardly excuses it.
Throughout the whole show, I couldn’t stop thinking of a saying a director friend of mine would often say, “My goal is for it to be perfect by closing.” Maybe this is a show that took that philosophy to heart and decided to keep tech-ing well into the run. Maybe what I attended wasn’t something that can really be judged. As a finished product, however, In My Own Defense is severely lacking.