Any dramatic situation can be made funny. How can you make a kidnapping funny you say? Well, have two bumbling men who moonlight as semi-professional abduction and personal detainers hold a girl and a boy who are having relationship woes that slowly gets turned into couples therapy. That’s the basic premise of Persephone by Matthew Minnicino.
Like his characters refer to often, the play takes inspiration from Greek mythology, specifically the story of Persephone, or “Percy Phone” as on of the characters calls her. The story of Persephone is that she deliberately was abducted by Hades and brought to the underworld. Minnicino’s Persephone follows Toby and Oskar, two semi-professional abductors, as they hold their marks as they wait for the ransom comes through. With a twist of fate, their business becomes a bit of a game as they soon discover that they may have been set up from the start. The cast of five does a nice job playing and having fun in this dark comedy world. But it’s Bill Griffin who stands out in the ensemble. Griffin packs a knockout punch as one-bit thug Toby. His game loving wordsmith is endearing. You’re not sure if Toby is not all quite there or if he’s too smart for his own good. And that’s what keeps us watching him. Josh Sauerman as his partner Oskar doesn’t get to shine like Griffin, but serves as a nice opposite. Elizabeth Bays, Caitlin Johnston, and Benjamin Drew Thompson bring their own flavor to the piece as three drastically different abductees. Though one of my biggest theatrical pet peeves was in full force. An actor poorly tied can only go so far, especially when the bogus tie is exposed, something Bays and Thompson did not quite sell.
Estefania Fadul did great work directing her ensemble. Though the audience did not help the effort, she and her cast were able to bring out the comedy throughout, allowing for the dark ending to work. Aaron Ethan Green’s set was perfect for the space. The wallpaper lined cardboard boxes established the locale quite well. Ellen Geissal-Shapiro’s lights worked for the realistic script, though theatricalizing some of the characters’ monologues were questionable.
Overall Persephone was an enjoyable night at the theater, helped greatly by Griffin’s Toby. You almost could imagine Toby and Oskar getting a sitcom where each episode is another victim. Or even a sequel with Toby and his new friend.