- OTHER MEDIA
- Ahoy -- a pirate's tale in triplicate
- SF Chronicle June 19, 2007 (Robert Hurwitt)
- The small, fastidiously appointed dining table onstage is an apt metaphor
for the show at Exit Stage Left. It's not just that "Naught But Pirates"
is a light, tasty and fairly satisfying repast. It's that, even without
moving the furniture, writer-performer Sean Owens keeps turning the tables
on our experience and expectations.
- Developed at Exit Theatre, where Owens has earned a substantial following,
"Naught" was the Audience Choice Award winner at New York's first
Frigid fringe festival in March. It's not hard to see why. The self-styled
"swishbuckling adventure," back at the Exit complex for the rest
of June, is a clever, compact, three-character pirate yarn told by an engaging
chameleon. It's a low-key, at times unfocused entertainment that turns
out to be surprisingly refreshing.
- Simply, and, for the most part, effectively staged by Kenny Shults,
with original music by Owens' longtime collaborator Don Seaver, "Naught"
is about several forms of piracy. The story hinges on a lost, destroyed
or possibly nonexistent autobiography by "the first openly queer pirate,"
the English dandy Richard "Black Dick" Dark. An arrogant author
of popular histories, Solomon Lynch, may have destroyed the lost book to
cover up his literary borrowings. The earnest, hero-worshiping young man
who accuses him of the act may be using someone else's identity and has
a penchant for intellectual property theft himself. Hostage taking and
other such buccaneer activities figure in the story as well.
- The tall, balding, dapperly bearded Owens assumes each character in
turn, shifting accent, pitch and demeanor with deceptive ease and only
slight modifications of his maroon jacket, ornate vest and white shirt.
It takes a few minutes for "Naught" to settle in, but after an
awkward, if cleverly lit (by Curtis Overacre), opening, the story's layers
unfold with increasing degrees of intrigue.
- At first, Owens is Lynch, a full-of-himself prig preparing to dine
in style on his ordered-in meal. Though he seems to be alone, he ostentatiously
pours a second glass of wine. The reason becomes clear as he begins addressing
an apparently captive "guest," mixing self-satisfied bon mots
with withering assessments of the other man's new CD. Lynch may be unlikable,
but the snippets of music we hear, in Seaver's cleverly eclectic bad-rock
styles, justify his cutting remarks.
- Not only that, but the man who calls himself Cyril Trast seems to be
engaged in a multifaceted campaign against Lynch's new biography of Dark,
"Naught But Pirates" -- even titling the CD in question "Not
Butt Pirates." Once our view shifts to the other side of the table,
the story becomes more beguilingly convoluted as the boyishly eager-to-please
Trast we meet turns out to be more deviously resourceful than he at first
- A final segment, with Dark on the eve of his execution, doesn't settle
any of the issues raised, which is part of the point of "Naught,"
but doesn't build on the previous scenes as well as it could. It's engagingly
written and performed, however, enough so to bring "Naught" to
a sweetly poignant close that culminates in a lovely song in traditional
English ballad style. Thinking about his absent first mate, the dandified
pirate brings the story's gay subtext to the surface as he croons, "And
it's not for the lack of a lass."