nytheatre.com review by Jeff Lewonczyk
Be careful when making an offering to the Goddess
of Chaos, because she just might return the gift in kind. This is the
moral, both implicit and explicit, of Principia, a new musical by
Michael Maiello and Andrew Recinos.
August 15, 2003
Rife with references to the Principia Discordia, the Illuminatus Trilogy, The Book of the SubGenius, and other holy writs of the sci-fi joke-conspiracy subculture, Principia follows the spiritual journey of Kerry (Brian Farley), a hapless young man who happens to find a golden apple in his lunch one day. Everyone wants the apple, including: the Illuminati; space aliens who are, perversely, the original Native Americans; Eris, the Goddess of Discord; and God Himself. Kerry must find his own path through all of these conflicting interests, figuring out for himself how best to manage the mind-blowing powers of the apple.
Or at least that's how it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, what little book the musical possesses has been thoroughly manhandled by Eris, and it becomes very difficult to sort out who's doing what and why. The direction, despite some witty staging (such as an angry mob raging around a man obliviously chewing Twizzlers), doesn't help matters; when the characters can even be seen through the dimly unfocused lighting, their movements do little to illuminate the action. Add to this the fact that the actors seem to have been directed to upstage each other at every possible juncture and you see before you a living diagram of entropy at work.
However, as the script (and chaos theory) hasten to declare, there is always order in chaos. In this case what discipline and restraint the show exhibits springs from two sources: the songs, and a few very entertaining performances. With songs like "The Opposable Monk," "Everything's Under Control," and a lovely fugue entitled "Fuck It," Principia manages to create some of the exciting moments that musical theatre was created for. And two performers in particular stand out: Cyrus Roxas as a shambling, filthy bum of a God, and Rob Maitner as the lovably wacky conspiracy theorist Bob Dobbs.
In the end, despite its pervasive lack of focus, Principia is at least ambitious and energetic. I suspect that with a stronger book and a tighter production, Principia has the potential to transform itself into a more fruitful form of anarchy.