By David Couter; Directed by Yossef K
Produced by Hungry People Theatre
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.27.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 10.13.18
BOTTOM LINE: Three skilled actors show us a f***ed up "game," and the story of Mr. Caddywhompus, as they debate free will and show us what it means to face your fears.
A table set for two. A grand piano. A seemingly innocuous room. How were we to know the terror that was to come? And who would have thought that such a dark story would be so gosh darn funny? It all starts with Alex (David Couter) staring at the wall, clearly contemplating or worrying about something taking a lot of concentration. Legs slightly askew and back twitching, he appears uncomfortable, yet preparing himself for events we know not of. In just these first moments, Couter draws us in—he's awkward and slightly wounded, yet clever and scheming. (I had to find his acting reel online to verify whether his tick and limp were real—he’s just that good.) This skilled actor is also the playwright, and his writing, paired with director Yossef K’s vision, combine to display the frighteningly weird and humorous nightmare of a story that is Mr. Caddywhompus.
Frank (Jon Castro) finds himself at a dinner with Alex, his fiance’s work friend. As a video game designer it makes sense that he likes to play games, but these games take a dark turn as Frank gets tied, chained up, and zip-tied to a chair. He is forced to recount his earliest childhood memories as Alex demands to be called "Mr. Caddywhompus," pours water on him, and smears his face with lipstick. Despite his pleading, even Alex’s roommate Tim (J. Jerome Rogers) won’t help untie him, as he is tired from a long day of work and just wants to eat dinner, play piano, and fall asleep. It isn’t until later on that we realize just how strange Tim is. (Though, to be fair, we can’t expect a totally sane person to walk in wearing slacks and suspenders with no shirt.) Each of these three actors have skillfully created and made real these insane yet compelling characters, and I must applaud their work. Caddywhompus is no easy feat—it takes trust and practice to pull off this kind of piece.
Besides the sheer edginess and fantastic acting, the ideas Caddywhompus brings to the table are quite thought-provoking, transitioning from the idea of doing what we are meant to do work-wise, to a debate of Hitler’s free will. This discussion of Hitler foreshadows the monsters people become, and the idea of not understanding how people do such terrible things to each other. Is there joy in defeat? Do we have free will? Is there a Mr. Caddywhompus haunting each of our dreams each night? These are questions I will contemplate as I fight off thinking about the demonic expression on Castro’s face as he licked Couter’s leg. But I suspect this is something that will be hard to forget, in the best possible way.
(Caddywhompus plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 27, 2018. Meet at the PINK FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes. Performances are Fri 10/12 at 8:30, Sat 10/13 at 4:30, Wed 10/17 at 8:30, Thu 10/25 at 7, and Sat 10/27 at 1. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org.)
Caddywhompus is by David Couter. Directed by Yossef K. Associate Director is Stevan Mijailivic. Sound Design by Tae Jong Park. Producer is Travis Blackwell. Stage Manager is Julie Davis. Assistant Stage Manager is Carley Guida.
The cast is David Couter, Jon Castro, and J. Jerome Rogers.