Oscar E Moore

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Cow Play – New York Int’l Fringe Festival

August 20th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

I wouldn’t presume to know or explain to you what Matthew George, a recent graduate of Yale, who has written “Cow Play”, wants his audience to take home with them except for us to see life’s larger picture and to be nicer to bovines.

He has written an intelligent play with three very interesting characters.  Julie (Willa Fitzgerald) a would be young actress from a wealthy family living in Connecticut falls in love with loquacious Mark (Alex Kramer) a grad student who has a passion for medieval history and the Bayeux Tapestry and is writing his thesis which he insists on sharing its many historical and meaningful details. 

While visiting the farm with Julie that his controlling brother Jed (Will Turner) now runs she is overcome by the smell of cow poop and the harsh treatment the cows receive under the rifle wielding man of few words.  And falls for him and one of his cows.

It is forty minutes into this two hour show and after a few false starts (Julie’s auditions as Lady Macbeth to cite just one which are fun) that we meet Antigone – cow #277 that Jed hands over to Julie to receive better care.  The play begins to take shape and make sense only to go off on some other tangents that equally confuse – namely the death of the brothers’ sister.

Antigone, the cardboard cow is completely lovable.  Her scenes with Julie are sweet.  Jed begins to open up and soften while Mark is off to France (paid for by Julie’s parents) to examine his beloved tapestry.  When Antigone comes down with a terminal illness and has to be shot it is Julie who does the shooting.  Even so, they correspond by writing beautiful and amusing letters to one another.

There are so many ideas being floated around with lots of unclear symbolism that it takes away from the relationships of the characters and the cow.  As if all these folk from Yale need to show us their worth – in excess – all at once. 

Charlie Polinger (Director) is also attending Yale.  He has superimposed an almost surrealistic style over the sometimes obtuse script making it all the more murky.  The production has the look and feel of a collegiate theatrical experience trying too hard.

There is a terrific scene is which Mark plays King and serf which is totally out of sync with the rest of the style of the play but which is a  great feat of acting and comedy.

“Cow Play” has a lot going for it.  Maybe too much so.  There are great projections by Adam Payne that enhance the show but clarity should come first.

 www.lessthanrent.org/cowplayfringe.html      www.fringenyc.org

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