The Actory explores the seven deadly sins in an entertaining murder-mystery
The seven deadly sins personified appear one by one in The Actory Theatre Art Centre’s presentation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Getting Away With Murder, and they’re as inconspicuous as your neighbors, your co-workers and your family members.
Lust appears in a loud, too-short skirt and a too-tight top, and from her mouth comes a cooing come-on to every man in her path. Her body language shouts: “Just one look at li’l ol’ me’s all it’ll take …” Laurel Sweigart’s attempts to continually ooze desire as Dossie are great, considering that Dossie is in group therapy to deal with her problematic passion.
Pride shows up in a huff. Pamela (Melanie Collup) has come down from Connecticut to midtown Manhattan for this group therapy session, scowling all the way, arms and legs crossed. Collup shows us that Pamela is clearly too good to be in this group.
Gluttony shares an elevator up with Pamela, and Ralph Maldonado as Vassili provides the comic relief this drama needs. He nearly takes up the entire couch in the session room. Then he spreads food—baklava, dolmas and other delights—all over the table. He eats and eats and eats, occasionally oblivious to the actions around him. We later learn that this is not his only insatiable appetite.
Beth Petersen is purely annoying as Envy, which means her performance is fantastic. Her tone and all her words come with an “I’ll-never-be-good-enough” apology. Poor thing! Greed appears looking like an Everybusinessman. In fact, Shawn Patrick Mahan as Greg, we learn, is the stereotypical rich man who has squished everyone and everything on his way to the top—a top that gets higher and higher as he climbs. Anger comes in the form of an ex-cop. Jess M. Glenn keeps his rage constant as Dan.
If I were to say anything about Sloth … well, to learn more about Sloth, see the play, because Sloth is the element key to the puzzle of the drama.
A second drama takes place throughout the first half outside the doctor’s office. In this subplot, a rough, young, drugged-out kid commits an accident in Central Park. Then he has a one-sided dialogue with his non-visible dad, promising him that he’ll make him proud.
Meanwhile, the murder-mystery begins when the doctor’s room is filled with sins and the doctor doesn’t show up, though for anyone who has no personal experience with group therapy, the mystery began at the beginning. What possibly could be gained on an individual level from being put in a room with other people whose issues differ so greatly from your own?
Perhaps, in drawing all seven of the deadly sins together, Sondheim and Furth wanted to explore the fact that six of the sins are interchangeable. Each sin has in common with the rest a focus wholly inward on the self. Anyone who believes that he or she can get away with murder is indubitably deranged and narcissistic, as well as having a tendency toward monomania (that craze being one’s self).
Sloth prevents everyone from overcoming their troubles with the other sins. The tramp, the bitch, the bottomless pit, the greed, the hostility and envy all are too lazy to change. Sloth is the perpetuation of all the other sins.
In spite of the weight of the moral drama, the interaction among the characters—as well as their idiosyncrasies—makes the play fun to watch.