nytheatre.com review by Ryan Nicholoff
August 12, 2008
Walking into the Lafayette Street Theatre I was immediately intrigued by the set: eight trash cans positioned about the stage. Before the performance, an actor (unnamed in the program) walked on and set himself down stage left. We were to find out later that he was to be the sound effects man. The performance begins. Sailor Man is an interesting live action look at the toils and foils between our favorite cartoon sailor and his arch nemesis "Bluto the Brute." The plot line is driven by the fact that the two men come to the conclusion that they need wives. So they go to a wife agency, a touch I thought was very funny, and happen to both pick none other than Miss Olive. As they meet her (at the same time of course) they proceed to get into a very brutal fight, and then another one and another one and so on.
The performances are wonderful along with all of the clever staging and stunning fight choreography by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum impeccably executed by the two leads, Ryan Iverson as "The Sailor Man" and Scott Peterman as "The Brute." The only downfall with this 45-minute production is that it lacks much of a story and although it's short it is longer than I thought the idea could carry it. Also, it was billed as Saturday Cartoons delivered Sam Shepard style, a claim which I don't agree with personally. Those classic cartoons are so wonderful because they innately contain the aspects that a good story is made of. I felt that this production at times makes interesting choices, i.e., Miss Olive's journey, which is done spot-on by Lauren Blumenfeld, but it doesn't really go past the comically violent fight pyrotechnics.
With that aside, though, I definitely enjoyed myself while watching these two characters beat themselves into oblivion time after time after time after time. The blood flows liberally and there is no end to the clever ways to dish out the pain, using everything they can get their hands on. I don't want to reveal any of them because they are so good you need to see them for yourself, especially if you are into the stage combat discipline. The greatest victory of all, though, I think, is that I was actually able to watch and enjoy myself because I never feared for the safety of anyone onstage, which is one of the most difficult things to accomplish with combat.
Director Peter James Cook made interesting choices as well. The use of the trash cans is very well done along with a special appearance by a Swiffer, and the settings are captured due to the atmospheric lighting design by Ku'uipo Curry. But my favorite thing Cook did was his use of one nameless and faceless actor for all superfluous characters along with fight sound effects. The character work is spot-on by all three actors. Iverson is wonderful as "The Sailor Man" capturing all ornaments and crafting interesting layers to add on top of the cartoon-like hero. Peterman is hilarious as Bluto as he barely speaks ten truly audible words but you know exactly what he's saying. A funny fat suit and maniacal eyes add to his Bluto. As I said earlier, Blumenfeld is great as Olive and quickly wins the audience's compassion as she has to deal with these two brutes.
So if you want to be moved by a true work of storytelling I don't think Sailor Man is for you, but if you want to have 45 minutes of fun unlike anything else you've probably ever seen, then buy your ticket now.