Up front – full disclosure. For the first few minutes of The Luck of the Ibis I was a little confused by what was going on and therefore not fully checked into the play yet. I was waiting for something to click (something always does) and then the girl in the corner (Amy Landon) said Rumspringa. And boy oh boy, THAT made me perk up. I am an absolute FOOL for anything to do with Rumspringa, and I love any plot that can incorporate it, even vaguely. Even just in passing. Which … (more full disclosure) was about as much as it was mentioned here. (Oh, Rumspringa, we hardly knew ye). But the point is, it got my attention, and from that moment I was invested.
I tell this to you for a reason. Because The Luck of The Ibis (Written by Jonathan A. Goldberg and directed by Tom Ridgely) is filled with a whole lotta crazy and the only way to enjoy it (and you WILL enjoy it … I promise) is to find something to latch on to quickly and then just go with the crazy till it runs out.
Maybe for you it won’t be the mention of Rumspringa, but rather it will be how the two sisters are named Metonymy (Jocelyn Kuritsky) and Parrhesia (Jessica Pohly) … it sounds funny – say it out loud. Or maybe your click will be the so-thick-you-can-(gladly)-eat-it-with-a-spoon accent Nathaniel Kent drizzles over every word uttered by his blustering Captain Kraken. Or maybe it will be the way shrimp play such a huge role … not only growing to mythical proportions, but finding their way into bodies and exploding out in a rain of pink. Ahh, am I getting ahead of myself? Well … that might be your hook too – the way this play mixes more flashbacks and flash-forwards than the this past season of LOST — a plot device that is always leaving you guessing where the HELL you are in the story. Don’t worry, though. Even THAT is explained, and in a way that is satisfying (now let’s hope that LOST will be as neatly wrapped up …)
So, let me start over. First of all, everyone in this play is FREAKIN crazy. There is a plot here that is so winding and convoluted on the page that to try and even give you a sense of what you’re in for would be to spoil the whole experience. Heck, I didn’t even mention President Reagan (Brendan Donaldson doing a spot on impersonation of a Reagan impersonator), El Chupacabra (again, the delightful Nathaniel Kent, using a different spoon this time, but pouring on the Latin machismo as if his mythical life depended on it), or Clewrissa Baumberg (Amy Landon) who was a teen detective a la Nancy Drew and despite being an office manager now, yearns for the days she was solving crimes. These days she’s hopped up on sleuth-enhancing drugs (“Sherlocks” and “solvents”). I didn’t mention the convict or the errant dad (Donaldson again), or the Lighter-Than-Air Museum or the … you get it.
Don’t get me wrong, like LOST (to keep a simile going) – which sounds crazy when all the building blocks are laid end to end – Ibis has its own paradigm, and therefore it can follow its own rules. The big thing with plays that attempt to create their own mythology is that they just really need to be consistent within the boundaries they set up for themselves. Luckily, Ibis is not only consistent but funny, entertaining, and surprisingly poignant. An unexpectedly touching “underwater” ballet performed by Mr. Kent and Ms. Pohly was both moving as well as heartfelt, and the final scene put a lump in my throat.
Everyone in the cast pulls double and triple duty – and even the sisters Metonymy (Jocelyn Kuritsky) and Parrhesia (Jessica Pohly) who seemingly stay in the same character for the whole play manage to jump the timeline so often that they’re required to take on the mantle of other personae just as much as the others in this versatile company. Every single member of this talented ensemble is captivating in a different way and will hold you in the palm of their hand as they spin their part of the tale, campaigning for their version of the truth. Special mention to Ms. Landon who tells the “Fate of the Hero Ur-Shrimp” dressed as a giant shrimp with such dynamic realism that you feel like you were there. Sorta.
Ultimately while the story here is fanciful, wacky, ephemeral and dreamy it is not needlessly scattered, pointless, unfulfilling or unfaithful to its ultimate goal of staying true to themes of hope, transformation, transitioning, and autonomy. Hmmmm … maybe it really was all about Rumspringa all along.~~~~~
Luck of the Ibis By Jonathan A. Goldberg
Directed by Tom Ridgely
Great SC0T Deals:
Single Play: $15
Two play marathon: $20
Three play marathon (all in one day): $25
SCoT Pass (all three but on different days): $30
380 Broadway, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10013
Tickets are available online at www.shelbycompany.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Tickets may also be purchased, in person, at the Access Theater, ½ hour prior to performance.