Sad, Sad, Sad
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 11, 2008
From Nigel O'Hearn and Duncan Coe, two playwrights currently attending St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, comes this double bill of high-concept one-acts, billed as Sad, Sad, Sad. The FringeNYC program guide blurb sets forth the premises:
Four men in Nevada steal a newly developed bomb to kill all the unborn children in the world. Two men from Purgatory are sent to assassinate God in exchange for another shot at living.
Provocative stuff, this. But sadly, Sad, Sad, Sad fails to fill out either of its startling play ideas with anything substantive or thoughtful.
The first piece concerns Stephen, Calvin, and Duncan, three men who are about to detonate the bomb described above. Stephen appears to be a scientist; I wasn't sure how the other two men figured into the scheme except that Calvin is the one who sort-of explains why someone might want to set off a bomb that will kill off all of the unborn children in the world. (Stephen does say, at the very outset, that he is feeling sad.) Duncan and Calvin don't like each other, though we never find out why. Duncan inexplicably speaks Czech, which is the native language of Calvin's mail-order bride Sal, whom Calvin has inexplicably brought with him to the detonation. The fourth man is the oddly-named Mournin, apparently some kind of handyman who barely understands what is being contemplated but nevertheless participates with a degree of pride. The back story here is very hazy—who are these men, exactly? Why are they doing this?—and the playwrights' attempt to explain how the bomb works feels very foolish; I was left scratching my head at intermission.
The second play is even harder to follow. Jackal and Diddy arrive in God's Office—a room with a desk, a chair, a window, and papers strewn EVERYWHERE—with a plan to kill Him (actually, Her: God is portrayed by a woman, though the reason for that choice is never explained). It's clear from the outset that they are indeed from Purgatory and eventually we understand in a vague way that they've been told (we never quite know by whom or what) that if they accomplish their mission they will be able to go back to Earth and start over again. This play is filled with all kinds of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo dialogue and unwieldy symbolism (the Earth is said to look like an apple more than once). I actually found this piece lacking any kind of innate logic at the most basic level: if one believes in God then one understands that S/He can't be killed, and if one doesn't, then s/he can't be killed either.