By Bucket Club; Directed by Nel Crouch
Produced by Bucket Club and Farnham Maltings
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 5.14.17
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 5.12.17
Adam Farrell, Helen Vinten, and Luke Murphy in Fossils.
BOTTOM LINE: An enthralling, one-of-a-kind production focusing on one woman's investigations into the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, and simultaneously, her missing father.
As a post-graduate research fellow in Evolutionary Biology at a university in a dull part of England, Vanessa (Helen Vinten) has a life that is carefully structured: she spends all of her free time researching fish in a laboratory alongside her two PhD students Dominic (Adam Farrell) and Myles (Luke Murphy). Her only vice is indulging in late night online debates with creationists. Her desire for the simplicity of a highly structured life soon becomes apparent: her life was thrown for a loop at 16 when her father went missing; for the last 12 years she has assumed he abandoned the family. When new Loch Ness monster sightings are reported in Scotland, Vanessa becomes inundated with phone calls, as her own father disappeared after attempting to spot and study the monster. While Vanessa at first avoids the calls, she soon accepts an offer to pen an article on her father's research. She then heads to Loch Ness herself; while her original search is for the monster, we eventually learn that her real mission is to unearth the truth about her missing father.
The fact that Fossils was created collaboratively by Bucket Club is apparent in how layered and versatile the show is. The tightness and physicality of the show's humor suggests the material was created organically, with cast members adding their own spin as the show grew. Cast members use a laptop and equipment to create sound effects and provide their own music to accompany the show, occasionally breaking into song and taking out musical instruments. This provides a (literal) rhythm and energy to the piece that helps add to its infectious energy. Beneath the sound equipment are clear boxes with lights and plastic dinosaurs which provide props and occasionally stand in as characters. Fish tanks stand in for lab equipment and, later on, the ocean upon which a plastic boat floats.
The performers all have terrific chemistry, playing off one another with ease, and imbuing humor into each line and gesture. Adam Farrell and Luke Murphy provide plenty of comic relief, whereas Helen Vinten is captivating with her character's changing emotional states. There are loads of clever story-telling devices and jokes that build upon the show's themes, making this the sort of the show you would probably have to see twice in order to catch everything and fully appreciate the clever minutiae. All of this makes Fossils the sort of innovative, knock-you-off-your-seat show you hope to chance upon when you see Off Off Broadway theater.
I certainly regret not seeing Fossils sooner, so I could advise more people to see this magical show before it closes on Sunday. I truly hope the Bucket Club visits again soon, be it with Fossils or some other bizarrely brilliant masterpiece.
(Fossils plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through May 14, 2017. The running time is 1 hour 5 minutes. The remaining performances are Saturday at 2:30 and 8:30; and Sunday at 3:30. Tickets are $25 and are available at 59e59.org or by calling 212-279-4200. For more information visit bucketclub.co.uk.)
Fossils is by Bucket Club. Directed by Nel Crouch. Set Design is by Rebecca Jane Wood. Lighting Design is by Joe Price. Sound Design and Additional Music are by David Ridley. Stage Manager is Whitney M. Keeter.
The cast is Helen Vinten, Adam Farrell, and Luke Murphy.