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Subject:   EGO (Edinburgh Festival, Pleasance Theatres)
Name:   johncunningham
Date Posted:   Aug 10, 03 - 1:21 PM
Email:   johncunningham@uktheatre.net
Message:   EGO starring Tar Hugo, Steven Crossley and Jeff Harding, directed by Andy Jordan, written by Carl Djerassi.
Regular readers here know we never review plays we dislike, - which is why so little of the Edinburgh Fesitval has been reviewed so far! - However one play stands out already as the likely "Best play on the fringe": EGO. It is head and shoulders above the rest I have seen here.
A thrilling plot, a gentle and hugely enjoyable (and funny) theme of the dangers faced by egotists, a starry cast and a beautiful production. I have seen nothing else to touch it.
The story is an old one, but strangely exciting when set, as here, in modern times: a man plans to disappear - 'presumed dead' in order to see how people will regard him after he has 'passed away'. The twists and turns as his ex-wife and his nervous psychiatrist become involved in the plot are many and brilliant, and I will not spoil your fun or enlightment by saying more of them, but I MUST express my relief at finding the show at all here!
I am sorry to carp, but so many current productions seem to revolve around last year's politics, undergraduate humour and amateur production values. ... EGO is theatre for grown-ups!
Review by John Cunningham
   


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Ego
Ego
was written by Carl Djerassi a man best known for inventing the contraceptive pill. You'd think his ambition would be sated by such an enormous innovation but this is his second play at the festival in two years. Like last year's Oxygen, Ego is as cerebral as you might expect from a scientist and the premise is fascinating. A narcissistic author fakes his own death so he can read the obituaries in the papers. This play manages to pack a lot of thought and issue into an hour and a half and it does so with some good jokes and good will. The only problem is it achieves this at the cost of real emotional engagement with the characters. The effect of the writer faking his own death on his wife, himself and their psychiatrist is explored intellectually rather than emotionally. As Marks, the writer, reveals he has started a new life and a new career (as another writer), his psychologist is compromised by his feelings for the "dead" man's wife. From there, things get more complicated still - his wife finds out, edits his book "posthumously" and he comes back from the "dead" and everyone argues over the ethics of everything.

It works on a lot of levels and on a lot of those very well. The performances are very sharp and the production handsome but as a whole the piece lacked that farcical heart that makes a Tom Stoppard play come to life. But never mind, overall this is still a clever, witty and thought provoking piece. I mean you wouldn't want Medea every day would you? Pleasance 4:05 90 min




THE LIST (Edinburgh, 8/21/03)
***


EGO BY CARL DJERASSI

Does my brain look big in this?

No longer satisfied with fame and mere critical acclaim, narcissistic author, Steven Marx, fakes his own death to find out what the critics really think, to find out his real canonical worth. An interesting premise with a cleverly written script, Carl Djerassi’s latest offering is (in case you hadn’t guessed) all about egos. But just whose ego exactly? The show is in danger of getting a little too smug, and it’s hard to know how much of it is ironic. Is Djerassi parading his own academic qualifications or lambasting those who think they matter? Is he feeding his own ego or fattening it up for the kill? Ego gets the thinking man ‘s laugh – but exactly who is the joke on?


 

 

 

 

 

EXTRACTS OF REVIEWS FROM LONDON PRODUCTION

 

(King's Head Theatre, March - April 2004)

THREE ON A COUCH

 

BY Carl Djerassi

 

...Djerassi betrays a genuine gift for comedy...Michael Praed shines... Leigh Zimmerman oozes sex appeal...a hilarious seduction scene... A fruity, fun evening worth taking a pew for.”

Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph

 

...Carl Djerassiís Manhattan comedy is like an animated New Yorker cartoon...Leigh Zimmerman is a bold, statuesque blonde who can do some wonderfully symbolic things with a mango...Andy Jordanís production sustains the delusions to a happy end.

Robert Hewison, The Sunday Times

 

...funny lines and gags...three very assured actors...director Andy Jordan plays the action on and off the couch to great effect. Itís a winning combination...Michael Praed in a pitch-perfect performance... a throw-back to 30ís screwball movies...Leigh Zimmerman plays Miriam with the straight-on and sexy confidence of a woman who knows exactly what to do with a mango.

Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter

 

...the production enjoys a high voltage asset in the presence of Leigh Zimmerman as Miriam.

John Gross, The Sunday Telegraph

 

...a wonderfully provocative and saucy Leigh Zimmerman (Jamie Lee Curtis meets Hitchcock blonde)...

Georgina Brown, The Mail on Sunday

 

...the perfect play...pacy dialogue; a fun, intelligent set; New York neurosis; a neat plot; love, lust, revenge, ego and a breath-baiting denouement...

Katrina Manson, Camden New Journal

 

Leigh Zimmermanís Miriam is a blonde, leggy vision in tight-fitting outfits (you almost expect her to enter in a Freudian slip)...and in the highlight scene, using a piece of fruit as a means of seduction, proves that it does indeed take two to mango.

Mark Cook, Evening Standard

 

...laden with humorous and erotic double entendres...

Amanda Hodges, London Theatre News

 

...robust, highly enjoyable performances from Michael Praed as the repressed Freudian, Rolf Saxon as the self-obsessed author and, in particular, Leigh Zimmerman as the glamorous Miriam...

Robert Shore, Time Out

 


 

EXTRACTS OF REVIEWS FROM New York City PRODUCTION

 

(SoHo Playhouse, May-June 2008)

 

THREE ON A COUCH

 

BY Carl Djerassi

 

The story follows a self-absorbed writer who fakes his own death in an ill-conceived attempt at posthumous canonization; the resulting banter among the writer, his perpetually anxious analyst, and his boisterous widow is both intellectually provocative and hilarious.”

Chelsea Bauch, www.flavorpill.com/newyork/events/2008/5/29

 

“… it [is] important to note that this play is a comedy and one of the funnier I've seen on stage in a long time. To say any more about the plot would be ruining a great theatrical treat. Djerassi's play expertly mixes the genres film noir, commedia dell'arte, and broad farce into a hilarious cocktail of theatre. Everything is working here: the jokes come from all directions, both high and lowbrow… Three On A Couch is only around for four weeks, and if you miss your chance to see it, seek professional help.”

            Peter Schuyler, www.nytheatre.com (June 6, 2008)

 

“…sight gags and pratfalls convey the hilarious illogic of a man who fakes his own suicide, the brilliance of a woman who insists upon the uses of the mango fork, and the elastic Bill Irwin-type body of the doctor who treats them… his play brings to mind Beckett’s tragicomedy ‘Waiting for Godot’”

Regina Weinreich, www.gossipcentral.com (June 7, 2008)

 

Redshift Productions’ new Off Broadway staging does absolute justice to this intelligent, witty, and very funny concoction of noir, psychodrama, and clowning…. All told, it’s a full-throated sounding out of the possibilities of live theatre.”

Jon Sobel, BC Blogcritics Magazine http://jonsobel.com/index.php?paged=3 (June 8, 2008)

 

Carl Djerassi’s literate script… with fairly substantial ideas about authorship, essence, and identity… plays funny due to the comic flair of the three-person cast.”

A. J. Mell, www.backstage.com (June 9, 2008)

 

“…surprisingly worth the short running time.”

Sam Thielman, Variety  (June 9, 2008)

 

“… Djerassi and his director Elena Araoz lend the evening a surprisingly successful stylistic gloss…. These bold, complementary flourishes provide absurd entertainment….”

Adam R. Perlman, www.theatermania.com (June 9, 2008)

 

“‘Three on a Couch’ has lots of fun with noir clichés.”

Anita Gates, New York Times (June 10, 2008)

 

“… a wonderfully jocular piece of theatre. Djerassi gives the story weight and depth that only adds to the rich, comedic possibilities… so make a point to see this solidly funny production before its current run ends.”

Jim Halterman, Edge, New York (www.edgenewyork.com) (June 11, 2008)