Fringe Festival 2015 Review: Naked Hamilton
Posted by metaphorical on 15 August 2015
VENUE #5: DROM
Performance seen: Fri 14 @ 7:30
For better and for worse, we rarely walk into a show without expectations. (So much so that this reviewer has devised, mainly for movies, a four-S rating system: surprisingly not dreadful; surprisingly not bad; surprisingly watchable; surprisingly good.) Fringe shows might be thought to escape the tyranny of expectations—there are no previews, and its small venue and audience sizes generate little word-of-mouth. Still, two expectations mar an otherwise enjoyable Naked Hamilton.
First, the venue, DROM, is set up with a working bar along one wall, and a long stage at right angles to it, with four-tops nestled in the L thereby created. (Fringegoers who saw the hit play “Who Loves You Baby?” a few years ago at the similarly-laid-out Bowery Poetry Club know how ideal this arrangement can be; the conceit of that show was that Telly Savalas had come back from the dead to do a nightclub show.)
The audience at Naked Hamilton, naturally, set itself up to optimally look at the stage. But since the story of is of two alcoholic former lovers rowdily hanging out at their favorite bar, the actors, naturally, played the entire first half of the show, and some of the remainder, at the bar. Many in the audience were facing the wrong way, and a pillar impeded the view for those sitting along the long back wall. An announcement by the venue manager before the show starts, and a minute given over to people reseating themselves, would help immensely.
The second expectation involves the show’s length. Listed in the Fringe guide for one hour, it barely went forty minutes. This subtly changes how one sees the action—for one thing, when watching the final conflict, one expects there to be at least one more to come. (If it seems unreasonable to build subliminal expectations along these lines, think of the experience of the diminishing thickness of the right-hand side of a book as you read it—which is important enough that e-book readers tell you how many e-pages remain.) Again, an addendum to the venue manager’s opening announcements would help.
The show itself embodies a noble idea—that the improvements of gentrification are (to use a word my cousin once invented) deprovements for pre-existing populace, attracted as they are to low rents or down-and-out environs. Tom and Tee’s beloved bar is closing early one night for a photoshoot. Already drunk, they protest, are locked inside, and the cops are called. Besides the imminent threat of arrest, they fear their home-away-from-home will close; almost as bad, or maybe worse, its clientele and character are already changing.
To do this as a two-person play is an interesting, not entirely successful, idea. It relies on an unseen and improbable bar owner, and magnifies the perennial dramatic problem of revealing backstory with two and only two characters, who know each other intimately. That problem is partly overcome by one character revealing a secret that may or may not be true. The veracity question is never answered, though, contributing to the abruptness of the ending.
Finally, while both performances were excellent, they were unevenly so.
Sky Gilbert’sScott McCord’s Tom fills the room; he’s brilliantly inebriated and fully formed; it helps he has the stage (/bar) to himself for the first ten minutes. Suzanne Bennett as Tee cannot make herself as large with Tee, an effort not helped by an awkward signature gesture of a double-fisted double-armed rock-star arm raising.
Despite or because it is imperfectly realized, Naked Hamilton is well worth its 40 minutes—and would be even at 60.