- OTHER MEDIA
- Review on theidiolect.com by Sam Hurwitt (March 18, 2011)
- Dont Cockpunch the Messenger
- The god came back. Shortly afterward, the world ended.
Thats what Lauren Spencer tells us as the narrator and sometime bartender
in Hermes, a new play playing at the EXIT Theatre in a No Nude Men
production directed by Sleepwalkers Theatre artistic director Tore Ingersoll-Thorp.
Spencer says this several times, in fact, handling the poetic repetition
with grace and sparkling intelligence.
- Dressed in an elegantly simple purple dress (with no costumer listed
in the program), she actually represents the Greek goddess Hestia, although
shes never called that by name. The god she refers to is the one
of the plays title, the messenger, trickster and general enabler
of the Olympian pantheon, but aside for her narration the play doesnt
occupy an elevated, mythical space.
- The spare set by Tanya Orellana consists of a small bar, a few utilitarian
chairs and a few small video screens hanging above (representing airport
seating). The first full-length production by playwright Bennett Fisher,
Hermes is actually a completely contemporary story about US financial wheeler-dealers
profiting off the imminent collapse of the Greek economy. Its just
that when the shell companies and bookkeeping shenanigans get farther and
farther from any tangible, touchable assets, it finally gets to a point
where Hermes shows up as if summoned by the mammoth unreality of the thing
- We meet the Americans when theyre strategizing in the airport
on their way to Europe. Anne (Julianna Egley) is clearly the hard-nosed
alpha female of the group, although theyre operating on a game plan
handed down by unseen superiors. Theyre going to lobby various European
government functionaries to sell them chunks of the Greek debt so they
can profit when the European Union bails Greece out, although they have
to portray the deal as helping the other parties manage their risk. Anne
cautions the other that they have to spook the Europeans into action but
cant scare them so much as to endanger the bailout, or else what
theyre holding will be useless. Its a delicate balance between
a Big Bird approach and Chicken Little.
- Gil (Carl Luciana) is at once smarmy and tentative, as if in slightly
over his head, and Brian (Brian Markley) is the loud, boisterous old pro
aggressively eager to show the new guy the ropes. When the three of them
give the exact same spiel to different parts of the audience at the same
time, its strikingly effective. When theyre not plotting or
wheeling-dealing, theyre in the bar doing shots and patting each
other on the back. Jack (Geoff Nolan) is barely more than a kid next to
the others. His journey from nervous deference to the dark side feels like
the heart of the piece, and his character becomes more and more unnerving
as the story goes on.
- And then theres Hermes. Brian Tryborn plays the god as a smirking
surfer-dude bike messenger type in a yellow hoodie and winged sneakers
who not only calls everyone bro but comes up with a different
punning nickname every single time he talks to someone, either riffing
on their name or more often on bro: Broseph, Broledad
BroBrien, Friends, Bromans, Countrymen. Hes
like Rob Schneiders Copy Room Guy on Saturday Night Live, only much
more belligerent. His signature move is faking someone out with a high-five
and then punching him in the nuts. Hes intended to be an intensely
annoying character, and succeeds way too well.
- Pretty much the only thing Hermes doesnt beat around the bush
about is being a god, and interestingly enough the Americans dont
really seem to have any problem believing it. Much more relevant to them
is the fact that hes a dick. I think he just wants to hit us
in the balls and act like an asshole, says Gil. Mystery solved.
Once he shows up they cant get rid of him, which makes it all the
stranger when he finally does buzz off and one of the Americans actually
seeks him out. Greed makes people do the most unadvisable things.
- Insufferable deities aside, its an entertaining evening. The
dialogue is snappy, the pace is brisk and the performances pretty solid.
Its a fine length for a play, 100 minutes with intermission, but
when its all over it feels more like a promising first act. Its
an and-thats-how-we-got-into-this-fix ending, and any resolution,
in the play as in life, is as yet unwritten.