KPBS AIRDATE: JULY 7, 2000
It’s been a pretty good year for comedic actor Ron Campbell. First, there was his triumph in “The History and Mystery of the Universe,” when he portrayed so magnificently the great philosopher, R. Buckminster Fuller. From there, he jumped immediately into the role of Vladimir, one of the tragically comic tramps in “Waiting for Godot.” And now, he’s stepped beyond the footlights for his first foray into playwriting. And the result is likely to grab you — hook, line and sinker.
Supposedly inspired by the marital mishaps of a friend, “Sinker” is a dark, satiric mystery that paints a bleak picture of office politics, mind-games and mutual sexual manipulation. The writing is by turns funny and frightening, heady and arcane. Campbell obviously had some Bucky-thinking in mind when he penned this little late-night one-act. Sometimes there’s more minutia than we care to know… generally about tangential or inconsequential details. But the scene itself is shockingly familiar in its sinister portrayal of the corporate shark-pool, where a guy would sell out his girl, his partner or his mother, to save his own slimy skin. Alliances and allegiances change by the nano-second, which keeps us off-balance for much of the 60-minute piece that represents the first full production by the fledgling Muse Theatre, a group dedicated to the work of new playwrights.
Though this ground has been trod before, Campbell brings a fresh, sardonic voice to the proceedings. His writing is especially sharp in the contrapuntal duet of degrading sexual banter between the Associate and the Secretary. A delightful, three-piece jazz band underscores the musicality of this often muscular writing.
The setting is a “basement office, the day after tomorrow.” Every character seems to be a comfortable stereotype — the hyper-intense businessman, the oversexed secretary, the misogynist office associate — until each turns into something far more menacing. The coarse, animalistic seduction ritual between Jeff Blak and Shannon Maree Smith is hilarious, and George Ye is credible, if a bit overwrought, in his anxiety. But most ominous, and funniest, is the Irrigator, especially as portrayed by the towering, deadpan, ultra-controlled and monotonal John Garcia.
After all the mysterious, labyrinthine buildup, it’s not like everything is wrapped up in tight little ribbons at the end. Things remain pretty cryptic and disturbing, but not unsatisfying. Campbell has shown, once again, that he’s a theater man of many talents. Muse Theatre producer Erika Gamboa and director Francine Chemnick are mining gold, by devoting themselves to the playwrights’ Muse. Long may their inspiration blaze… even if only late at night.
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.