“The Muckle Man” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ November 8, 2010


Nearly Naked Theatre, The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

A thriller based on folklore, “The Muckle Man,” Nearly Naked Theatre’s latest Arizona premiere, is a confusing play delivered in a visually exciting production that doesn’t display fine acting in the leading roles while the minor roles are better etched.

The Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa play is muddled with a folk tale that few know mixed into a standard family drama. Set in Newfoundland, Canada’s Conception Bay, Addison, a marine biologist, has moved his wife, Marina, and sons, Harvey and Malcolm, so he can study little understood giant squids. Marina is bored but tries to make do until a boating accident drowns Malcolm and leaves Harvey brain damaged. Addison and his co-worker, Gilbert, capture a giant squid and begin their studies while Marina pushes harder for the family to move. When a man walks into their lives from the sea, things twist and turn in weird ways as their natural world changes unexplainably. Revealing more story or more about the myth would spoil the play.

The family tragedy has no real surprises. The parts about the strange man, while more unique than the main plot, isn’t that thrilling. The plot moves slowly as Aguirre-Sacasa repeats much and leaves too little to the imagination. It’s difficult to get engrossed in either story.

The production is presented on a massive unit set that serves as the family’s house, Addison’s office, and as several outdoor locations. Director Damon Dering uses the set well as the various locales are revealed and hidden with smooth fluidity. The short play’s pacing, though, is too laggardly.

Owen Virgin plays Arthur, the man from the sea, in an understated performance that gives a nice hint that the character is other worldly. Shelley Jiles has a field day with Dora, Marina’s sister, who comes to help Marina nudge Addison to see his wife’s struggles. William Jones is the in-charge Gilbert who plods through his work but has more common sense than Addison. Jiles and Jones both add much-needed energy to the pokey story. As Harvey, Colin Bird uses fine acting shading as the boy goes through dramatic changes in his situation. Less interesting are Cynthia Rena’s dramatic, overwrought, and none-to-convincing Marina, and David Weiss’ workmanlike but dull Addison. Both characters could be played with more depth and richer subtleties to dig into what these complex people believe in.

“The Muckle Man” isn’t one of the more interesting premieres selected by Nearly Naked Theatre. It continues through November 27. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151.

Grade: D