Review: "The Eel Catchers" a new play by Bennett Ayres

July 26, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

More and more I’ve come to believe that ideas themselves aren’t good or bad. How those ideas are made manifest is what matters.

Most recent case in point: “The Eel Catchers,” a new play by Bennett Ayres, offered through Aug. 7 at Theatre on the Square (although, to be clear, this isn’t a TOTS production).

The play is anchored in an historic anecdote that could lead to a very bad play: A 25-year-old Julius Caesar was captured by pirates in 75 B.C.

But while the subject lends itself to a broad range of approaches—from Shakespearean drama to Monty Python-ish spoofery—the playwright makes an ingenious and  gutsy move: He crafts a sincere, seedy drama in the Jim Thompson style (hardboiled stories about tough-but-vulnerable crooks whose human frailties get in the way of their “perfect” crimes).

 I’d be surprised to hear that the playwright isn’t well schooled in Thompson’s “After Dark, My Sweet,” another primarily three-character powder keg of a tale about a kidnapping gone bad.  

In Ayres’ taut drama, tough smuggler Lenckos and his alcoholic younger brother Ahmet nab the future Roman ruler with the help of an escaped slave/possible fortune teller, whose nickname I won’t repeat here. The action begins after the crime, in the waiting period as the trio jockey for control over the situation and each other.  I’ll say no more about the story. Why spoil a good thing?

I will say, though, that Ayres is well served by local leading men Doug Johnson (recall his George W. Bush in the Phoenix Theatre’s “Stuff Happens”) and Ben Tebbe (fresh from the lead in the Phoenix’ “Avenue Q”). Both create living, breathing flawed and confused men without the ironic detachment that could kill the drama. Sincerity is key to this kind of material. We have to believe that any mistake can be fatal. And I did.

There are a few places where the narrative seems to be treading water. And I’m not convinced that the introduction of a fourth character late in the 75-minute, intermission-less play is really necessary. But with director James Tillett, actress Erin Cohenour (more committed and stronger here than any other time I’ve seen her) and smart, simple stage design, the ad-hoc “The Eel Catchers” company has crafted an edge-of-the-seat noir drama that was one of my most surprising theatergoing pleasures in recent memory. Tickets are only $12. 

For information on the show, click here.

ADVERTISEMENT
  • Pedantry
    "Taut" drama, not "taught." He's a playwrite, not a teacher; it's tense, not a lesson.
  • Loved "Eel Catcher"
    I have to agree with Mr. Harry. Having been fortunate enough to be in the audience for the premiere of Mr. Ayer's play, I found it to be seat of you pants thrilling in addition to bringing a comedic thread to the material.
    Being a fan of all theater, this is one gem that I would highly recommend.

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

  2. Do you need finance to establish your business ? Are you interested in getting a loan at 3% from our private company? If so please Email: suntrust_oil@blumail.org

  3. If she was worth the $ the public outcry over direct tv dropping them would have kept them on their dishes as we have seen with other companies. I too quit watching channel 13 after she showed up since I left channel 8 because of her all show rather than production results. When Randy on 8 corrected her she had a big head and incorrectly challenged his correction for pronunciation of a city. Other antics while she matures was too much for me with her very inaccurate forecasts. All the forecasters were predicting rain until Thursday except Chris. They predicted sunny on Thursday but instead of rain until Thursday upon which the sun would finally make it out in full glory Chris was right on the money just as I too predicted looking at the radar on weather.gov. One thing I love about Angela is the fear you can see in her every time it thunders in the winter. It far exceeds the entertainment value of her body language (high heel noise drags, depression, etc) when her forecasts are so incorrect. Her hair stands on end, you have to see it!!!

  4. Good Day, Apply For A Loan I am Mr Fernadez Antonio, a private Loan lender and a cooperate financial for real estate and any kinds of business financing. I also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at 3% interest rate We offer any kind of loans. email us via fernadezloaninvest@outlook.com LOAN APPLICATION FORM First name:......................... Middle name:......................... Last name:........................................ Date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd):....................... Gender:........................................... Marital status:................................... Total Amount Needed............................... Loan Duration.................................... Address:.......................................... City:............................................. State/province:................................... Zip/postal code:.................................. Country:.......................................... Phone:............................................ Fax:.............................................. Mobile/cellular:.................................. Monthly Income.................................... Occupation:....................................... Best Regard, Mr Fernadez Antonio.

  5. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.okoro how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. okoro on his email:okorospell@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr okoro the great spell caster on his email addresses spellcasterforlove@outlook.com

ADVERTISEMENT