Review by Jared Davidson
60 minutes | Drama, Comedy, One-Man | PG (language)
Though it may have all the tinsel and trappings of a one-man Fringe show, Tim C. Murphy’s Kuwaiti Moonshine has far more in common with spoken word theatre than with a traditional stage play. Its emphasis is on context, details, and surroundings. It moves the very literary plot along what can seem almost unnaturally pre-defined lines.
So, if you go into this show expecting a theatre performance, you may end up kind of disappointed. As a storyteller, though, Murphy is excellent. And when Kuwaiti Moonshine is viewed as a told story, it is moving, inspiring, and often brilliant.
This show is essentially a short story, told and acted by one individual, writer Tim C. Murphy, who wrote the piece with his Kuwaiti counterpart Maidan Hawally. It contains elements taken from theatre, standup comedy, and (oddly- enough) self-help books, but it is, at its core, a literary/spoken word experience. Which is excellent, really, because the writing is fantastic.
As you’d expect, the story is very well fact-checked, save for some rather shaky science involving a psychologist about midway through. It paints a convincing story involving a man who cannot commit to life becoming involved in rum smuggling at his own peril.
Much of the story is told from the point of view of Andy, who has become a prisoner in Kuwait. But it becomes much, much more complex. And this complexity can be a bit daunting: some of the show involves the telling of an extremely long and convoluted story set in the first gulf war. But it becomes apparent that this complexity is necessary to the tone of the play: the narrative builds on complexity only to resolve into simplicity. To drop a musical metaphor, complexity is the show’s dissonance, simplicity it consonance.
And it is in this resolution, the final act of the play, where the play really comes together. There is real intelligence here, and Murphy does a great job exposing it. A great ending is often one that must be built to, and here Murphy succeeds. Getting to that resolution is a touch shaky at times, however. This shakiness often occurs due to a rather under-developed dramaturgy. Certain characters, such as Andy’s French Canadian rival, are awkwardly acted and the elements of the show that issue from one-man theatre are somewhat jarring and unnatural.
However, the show is, as I’ve said, a spoken word piece at its core. And despite its sometime-awkwardness, it is a beautiful and highly analytical look at humanity, internationalism, and hope. The bitterness and horror of its setting is well described and it is often a harrowing experience. Murphy’s presentation ability is at times genius, and always enthralling.
Kuwaiti Moonshine is playing at BYOV A – Mercury Lounge on Saturday June 16 at 8:00pm, Sunday June 17 at 2:30pm, Tuesday June 19 at 8:30pm, Wednesday June 20 at 8:30pm, Saturday June 23 at 1:30pm and
7:00pm, and Sunday June 24 at 2:30pm.