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Cockeyed | HotCity Theatre

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play_cockeyed.jpgCockeyed is a very funny show, bristling with wit and performed by an energetic cast.







I'm always interested in seeing something fresh and invigorating, and the chance to take in the premiere of Williams Downs' new comedy Cockeyed afforded me that opportunity. It's an odd little romantic farce of sorts, with a number of whimsical elements and a foundation in philosophy that distinguishes it from the run-of-the-mill relationship comedies that every young playwright seems to be producing. Cockeyed is a very funny show, bristling with wit and performed by an energetic cast led by the ingratiating work of Adam Flores.

Phil (as in philosophy major) is a "worker bee" in the accounting department of a firm on the cusp of a major merger. He yearns for something more than a living wage: He'd like to be noticed. He's silently stalking Sophia, a striking woman whose sole purpose seems to be fetching coffee for the big boss, Mr. Marley, when he's introduced to the object of his affections by his superior, Norman. The problem is that she literally doesn't see him; he's completely invisible (and inaudible) to her. This twist plays out in an intriguing and intellectual fashion as Phil tries to figure out some way to make her perceive his existence before she succumbs to familial pressure and marries the evil Marley.

As Phil, Adam Flores is a tightly wound ball of conflicting emotions. He takes advantage of his unfortunate circumstance by moving into Sophia's basement apartment. Since she can't see or hear him, he's free to give a running commentary on the action that occurs between Sophia and Marley. And, when he breaks the fourth wall at key moments and talks directly to the audience to acknowledge that he knows what they must be thinking, he delivers amusing monologues with references to Plato and Descartes that are designed to justify his naughty behavior.

Jennifer Nitzband impresses as Sophia. She's a flawed beauty with a glass eye who shares the same passion for philosophy as Phil but, since she can't be bothered with nice guys, she's bound and determined to marry a man with money. Paul Pagano is very good as Phil's boss, Norman. He's gone against office policy and hired his friend despite his inappropriate degree, and his sole concern seems to be maintaining his own low profile at work. Tyler Vickers is sharp as Marley, all business all the time, even while declaring his intentions to Sophia: on one knee with Bluetooth firmly in place. Vickers is especially good here switching gears between his phone and fiancée as he works on two very different proposals simultaneously.

Director Marty Stanberry has assembled a talented cast who understands the importance of good comic timing. This is a well paced and efficient show that's brimming with laughs, and that's really surprising considering that this is a premiere. Alex Gaines contributes a triptych set design, with two representations of Phil's office space separated by Sophia's grungy apartment in the middle. Some awkward staging results from this as characters move through darkness to reach the other side of the office. Michael Sullivan's lighting scheme is well conceived and executed; Felia Davenport's costumes fit the characters without drawing attention away from them; and Jeff Griswold's disco-flavored score is a delicious delight. | Chris Gibson

William Downs' Cockeyed gets a strong first production by HotCity Theatre in the black box theater at the Kranzberg Arts Center. The play runs through May 30; call 314-289-4063 for ticket information.

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