Old Kid Cod
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 22, 2007
In order for slang to maintain its power as a means of identity it must constantly be renewed. However, if you look at the body of a region's or a subculture's slang you'll see that there are always old words that linger and are never replaced. Playwright Lawrence Dial writes a Cape Cod slang that is very distinctive and intriguing but he has also taken this Law of Slang and used it as a metaphor for the cycle of life.
Old Kid Cod is described as a "quixotic fable." That is a fair description of what I saw. It's like kids at play. It reminded me of an early Sam Shepard play where characters take off on flights of hallucinatory fantasy and we the audience feel a little left out. It is set in a small town on Cape Cod, so much of the slang is centered around fishing and seadog lingo. The characters are a couple of kids (or "kid cods" as they call themselves), 17 and 12, who are step-cousins. They sport their slang and even make up new words. The older one has done something that makes him think he needs to leave town. The younger thinks she's been somehow impregnated in a dream she had. A strong character that we never actually meet is their grandfather who used to tell them old sea stories. The teenager is haunted by the death of their grandfather and wants to put his ashes where they belong. In the end, he does, though it's not where he expected. And just as in the Law of Slang, the grandfather has passed some of the old onto the new.
Dial spends a lot of time developing his characters in the first half of the play. In a way, this drags down the pace, however it really pays off in the end because as the story unfolds and climaxes I really knew these two kids. Dial does a wonderful job of giving us little bits of information at different rates so this spooky, quirky tale brews and brews until it boils over. I was impressed with the language and also with his writing of the kids. He has the younger one use the wrong words for things such as "accomplish" for "accomplice." I found his writing to be very nuanced and yet accessible. There are a couple of monologues toward the end that really peer into the soul and yet they are so simple.
Both of the actors are great. They carry this piece to its strange conclusion and never let it slip out of their hands. Elan Moss-Bachrach plays the older cousin with very casual honesty. Lindsey Broad plays the 12 year-old like she was 12 yesterday. She never tries to push the childishness too much. She's a kid but never forgets that she's a real person. These two have great chemistry on stage and this really helps because they are the only two characters we see.
Director Adam Knight creates an atmosphere where I felt a constantly pending explosion of action on the horizon. When it finally comes it is a deep breath of fresh air. There is an awful lot of time spent on a bed but Knight does the best he can with the space he has. He keeps his actors on the same page stylistically and he never imposes any awkward staging. He gets a little help from Wes Grantom, who sets the mood with an eerie and indicative sound design.
I liked this production. It's a slow burn but it took me with it. I think Lawrence Dial is a playwright to look out for.