The Confidence Man (Woodshed Collective)

Off-off-Broadway, play

Theatre: Pier 40, Hudson River

BOTTOM LINE: Cool thing: It's on a boat! Annoying thing: It's on...a boat.

Inspired by a Herman Melville novel of the same name, The Confidence Man by Paul Cohen takes a peek into the lives of several steamboat passengers as they journey down the Mississippi River towards New Orleans. Each story connects to another, webbing together the lives of the characters and illuminating certain universal themes such as charity, compassion, dignity and propriety.

At least, that's what...I think its about....? To be honest, who could tell?

What a shame. From what I could hear, the writing is fantastic! From what I could feel, the acting was spot on! From what I could see, the costumes were extraordinary! Too bad the most important elements of the play are A. being drowned out by shrieking docents, B. competing with several other scenes happening simultaneously, C. being obstructed by overly eager, rubbing-necking audience members, and D. being upstaged by the sights and sounds of the Hudson itself!

At NYU, one of my creative writing professors once warned me of "being too clever for my own good." This production's use of the retired Coast Guard's vessel, Lilac, as a stage is an interesting idea. The concept of the audience physically following the action around the boat and sitting "in" the scenes is undeniably fascinating. Unfortunately, these devices take precedence over everything else and the content and additionally, the quality of that content, is lost. When the piece becomes more about the device and less about the substance, as my professor would say, "we have a problem."

(The Confidence Man by Paul Cohen, presented by The Woodshed Collective, played on Lilac at Pier 40, Hudson River, NYC. The show has ended its run.)