By Alex Miller
The Jackson 5 promises I’m in good hands before the performance even begins. “ABC” plays while I wait for one of the most original and creative plays I have ever seen in my life. A projector shows psychedelic sunbursts that hint at the fantastical show ahead.
Kassi Dougherty (the UCB and Improv Olympic‑trained creator of solo shows “It Happened in the Park” and “Auntie Fionnualla’s Magic Disco Room”) emerges singing an upbeat, flowing, folk/pop number with very serious lyrics that remind me of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Throughout the show, colorful depictions of animals in a fictional New York create surrealist humor.
The ugliness of this New York is palpable. Pigeons and snails are more dangerous than we could ever imagine. This is where the genius of director Marcus Bishop‑Wright (“Chappelle’s Show,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”), producer Brian Barnhart (Producing Director for the Drama Desk‑nominated Axis Theatre Company), and Ms. Dougherty herself is truly felt. Pigeons represent the New York gangs of the 60s and 70s, which were bloody as hell. Even the gang leader has that cockney rocker accent, reminiscent of when the Stones and the Beatles reigned supreme. They embody the New York melting pot we’ve come to appreciate as much as the birds do.
When Seamus the Squirrel runs into trouble with the pigeons that have kidnapped his brother, a drunken cat named Ye Ye scares them off with a cough. “I have tuberculosis… but it’s only massively contagious!” “Is that pus?” Johnny of the pigeon gang shrieks in disgust. “Probably.” And with that, the gang warns Seamus that if he does something stupid, he’ll get his brother killed.
The music is just… kickass! Thanks to Ms. Dougherty (who has an outstanding and commanding musical range) and music producer/arranger Jody Shelton (producer of “50 Shades! The Musical Parody”), we get an eclectic collection of sounds totally indicative of the time period. Original rock, jazz, funk and disco songs are the toppings on this sundae of awesomeness.
Watching this play, one cannot help but draw parallels to that infamous animated X‑rated film “Fritz the Cat.” Although not nearly as explicit, “Seamus” transports us into a similar animal kingdom within the concrete jungle.
Nearly everything about the play is subtle, has a deeper meaning, and kept me guessing. I highly recommend the show because it’s an absolute trip!
“Song of Seamus and the Psychedelic Squirrel”
Written and Performed by Kassi Dougherty
Oct. 17 at 3:30pm
Director: Marcus Bishop‑Wright
Co-Producer: Brian Barnhart
Musical Director: Jody Shelton
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
ALEX MILLER, a Chicago native, has been a professional writer and editor for 6 years. He joined the Navy in 2004, and served for four years in such places as Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. He has a degree in Public Engagement from The New School, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Daily News, and QZ, among others. He lives in Harlem.