“Hell is really cold, wet and smells like fish.”
In the tale of his time as a greenhorn on a commercial fishing barge in the Bering Straits, John Cox definitely has an interesting story for his one man show, The Money Fi$h. However an interesting story is not necessarily a dramatic one.
Herein lies the flaw of The Money Fi$h.
Cox tells us of family troubles, love’s lost, and death on the high seas. Yet in telling us of these events he fails to provide any genuine sign of the emotional cost the “troubles,” the “loss,” or “death” demanded of him.
The bridge between a drama on stage and its audience is one constructed of “emotional cost.”
When Romero and Juliet die or when Rick puts Lisa on the plane or when Gordon watches Selina get on the bus in A Patch of Blue or when Ebenezer is transformed we find ourselves moved because we have been vested in their stories, and the coin we pay is “caring” for the characters.
While Cox does manage to tell a good tale, it is not one that involves his audience.
Michael Arabian is a familiar name to Los Angeles theatre-goers, and has directed some top productions. Here one glimpses his hand attempting to place some emotional value into Cox’s performance, but the fault lies in the writing.
There is an old adage, “No tears in the writing, no tears in the reading.”
When Cox wrote this piece I wager his paper was dry.
The production does have merit:
Leigh Allen’s lighting design is subtle and evoking, while John Iacovelli’s set is perfectly representative of the type of vessel recognizable to viewers of The Deadliest Catch.
This, however, serves to highlight another, if lesser problem with the production, in that Cox never succeeds in conveying the reality of his environment to the audience. He speaks of being seasick, but then strolls across what should be a rolling deck in a path straight as a razor.
All of this is not to say that Cox is without talent or his show without interest.
One could suggest a through reading (or re-reading) of Moby Dick, and this is not done facetiously.
Like Melville, Cox has set a morality play on the high seas, and both involve a “devil” bartering for souls.
The problem for all writers who select to employ a pseudo-Lucifer as a central fixture to their tale is that if penned correctly he tends to run away with the story; as Ahab, Iago and Milton’s Satan aptly demonstrate.
Cox does not have this problem with his devil, the captain of the fishing boat, because he has isolated him in his wheel house, and used him in scenes too few, thus defusing his potential impact.
There are recognizable essentials of good theatre present on stage here, a dysfunctional family, unrequited love, blind ambition – but Cox utilizes them more like flashcards than drama.
Producer Mike Abramson is known to this reviewer. He has had my praise of for his solid work with Doma in such musicals as Avenue Q and Xanadu, but he has also been the target of my well deserved wrath for such travesties as God’s Gypsy and Holding the Man either one of which was worthy of tar and feathering.
While The Money Fi$h is far from a travesty, Abramson must take some responsibility for mounting a show before its time, a drawback which appears to be on his blind side as far as producing.
Unlike God’s Gypsy and Holding the Man, however, Cox’s piece shows both promise in the writing as well as the performance.
But as it stands, I’m afraid this fi$h was a catch and release.
♦ ♦ ♦
The Money Fi$h — Extended through Dec. 20
• Written and performed by John Cox
• Directed by Michael Arabian
• Produced by Mike Abramson
Extended through Dec. 20:
• Saturdays at 8 p.m: Dec. 5, 12 19
• Sundays at 3 p.m: Dec. 6, 13, 20
The Hudson Theatres
6539 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 960-7780 or www.themoneyfishplay.com