Garry Graves Goes Subterranean, Seeking Strange Fungus
by Barry David Horwitz
What is Gary Graves’ “Edward King” really about? What does the voluble Edward King (the vital John Patrick Moore) tell us about having a job, a wife, a mortgage, and a kid away at school in today’s America? Well, the news is not good—the U.S. mailman is over-extended, under water in debt, and overburdened by the obstacles of living a working life in 2017.
Off-stage forces control him—and they remind us of banks, loans, and debts that can never be paid or beaten. The jokes are spot-on, with the ridiculousness and unfairness of our lives the targets. You have to laugh out loud when Edward tries to trick his formidable wife, Jo (a sly Michelle Talgarow) into a DNA test while she’s sleeping.
Graves’ meta-theatrical satire of a Greek classic marks his World Premiere #54 of new plays at Central Works. Graves takes a stab at modernizing a classic–with a witty comic spin.
We are aboard for the ride through Edward King’s besieged modern life—he’s a mailman who loves his job and the U.S. Postal Service. He also loves his wife, his daughter (offstage, away at college, like Hamlet), the birds, the trees, and his old, old house. But Edward has bad dreams. Demons assault him with prophecies, and the house is being overrun by Frankenstein mold and mildew—a typical modern real estate saga.
Moore gives us passionate doubt and Talgarow responds with delicacy and a witty comic touch. Jan Zvaifler, with her usual versatility and comedic verve, plays many roles—some supernatural, some deliciously satirical—each a delight to savor. You will love her aggressive Edwina, the Exterminator, called in to deal with the creeping fungi.
The play is full of funny, solid social satire for our times. Edward, The Common Man, doesn’t stand a chance—he could be Charlie Chaplin, or or Woody Allen—trying to deal with comic disasters with a can of “Halt!” He struggles with a house that is hostile to his very existence. He crawls around under the house, amid flashing lights, squirming deliciously. The lighting, by Graves himself, sharply suggests the ridiculous extremes involved in finding your own mold—a funny DIY project. The comedy could use some tightening up and more interaction with Talgarow and Svaifler.
That house stands for our lives—for our feeble coping, in isolation, with threats from powerful forces. That house is the world we all inhabit, day by day, that threatens to fall on our heads—and all we have is love. The Crash will come again—Edward King, a good man, tries to stop it for us.
Can Graves’ comedy vanquish oncoming tragedy? Where are the Occupy Oakland people when we need them? Come to Central Works to find out how long we can prop up This Old House.
“Edward King,” written and directed by Gary Graves, by Central Works, at Berkeley City Club, Berkeley, California, through Sunday, June 11, 2017. Info: centralworks.org
Cast: John Patrick Moore, Michelle Talgarow, Jan Zvaifler, and Deb Fink.