Sunday, May 26, 2013

Off Broadway: Botallack O'Clock

Dan Frost in BOTALLACK O'CLOCK. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Written and directed by Eddie Elks and starring Dan Frost as Roger Hilton and Rhys King as the radio - yes, the radio! – (and as an oversexed bear that haunts Hilton’s imagination to boot), Botallack O’Clock received rave reviews when it was staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012.  Third Man Theatre has now brought the play to New York where Frost is reprising his celebrated role as the tortured abstract artist at 59E59 Theaters in midtown Manhattan as part of the Brits Off Broadway program.  A fine actor, Frost plays the part of the obsessed, alcoholic painter with expressive intensity as he seeks to navigate the fine line that separates madness from artistic genius and, to that end, he is ably supported by King (who again plays the radio and the bear).

Hilton was an excellent painter whose ultimate descent into isolation, alcoholism, obsession and near-madness would seem to have the makings of a great play and Frost and King certainly are accomplished actors.  But despite all that, I found the play to be ultimately disappointing.  Hilton’s “insights” into the artistic process tended to be clich├ęs rather than bon mots and I thought that the playwright never really succeeded in exploring Hilton’s psyche in any depth.  Why, after all, did Hilton end up as he did?  What were the major influences in his life?  And what was the meaning of that lumbering bear anyway?  Unfortunately, we never do find out. 

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