Melissa James Gibson's Sic: Thus So

By: Nov. 23, 2009

"Sic," Wikipedia tells is, is defined as "thus, so, as such or in such a manner," a term that appears in quoted material to inform the reader that what they are reading is being "reproduced verbatim" so ignore any strange spelling, phrasing or punctuation. That's just the way it is.

"Sic" is also the title of avante garde playwright Melissa James Gibson's Obie award-winning play, a humorous and sometimes puzzling skewed view of three friends/neighbors/wannabe-lovers/losers in desperate need of money, affection, and likely a few ccs of lithium.

"Sic" is a good title for what does appear on stage seems rather odd, but afterall, isn't that life when taken "verbatim"--not clean and sanitized by Hollywood writers and the censor board? Who's reality isn't unusual? What IS usual afterall?

Gibson explores the "usual" elements of the human condition-the need for companionship, understanding, the support of friends, the challenges of every day life-but their expression is strange, to say the least--strange, given the characters Gibson has developed and so deftly acted by Alec Lawson (Frank), Tami H. Moon (Babette) and R. Brett Rohrer (Theo).

Of the three, Rohrer's Theo is most intriguing; imagine a mix of Woody Allen's onscreen nebbish inhabiting the body of Michael Moore, he'd do well in most any episode of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Theo is a fussy, sweater-tugging "classically trained" composer, stoop shouldered over his electric keyboard, gnawing on his "seven candy bars."

He does not walk but shuffle, annoying his fellow apartment dwellers with stories of his "lost wife" as he attempts to compose a theme for an amusement park ride called "Thrill-O-Rama." His twisted logic is a metaphor for the entire play as he plans his musical piece to be as dull as possible to "subvert the thrill expectation and intensify the rush of the ride" by contrast.

In her leggings and short skirt, Moon's Babette is not too far flung from the "baby" her name suggests, a 20something given to pre-teen temper tantrums and using her female wiles to milk money out of her neighbors. She is the antithesis of Theo, as she stamps, hops, and jumps about the stage. If Theo is a fussbudget, Babette is all misdirected energy, funneling her enthusiasm into "literary projects" like a book about how history's hallmark moments can be linked to someone's "outburst." She's an outburst herself.

Bridging the gap between Theo and Babette is Alec Lawson's Frank. Frank seems less defined than the other characters, but may have the most ambition, practicing endless tongue twisters as he hopes to embark upon a career as an auctioneer. He may have slept with Theo who would like to sleep with Babette who might find Frank attractive; it is as though the characters' sexuality and ability to express intimacy flickers on and off like a faulty light switch.

Similarly there are moments in the play when the lights are lowered and Theo, speaking to Babette, loses his fussy demeanor and weasel-y voice; he stands erect and his voice resonates with the strong tones of the alpha male. Is this just how Theo perceives himself? Is the point of Gibson's play that who we truly are and how we perceive ourselves to be are rarely the same thing? Thus, it is so.

Directed by Jayme Kilburn in the round within the infinite confines of the Strand (chairs are marked with colored paper signs indicating the quality and quantity of the view...such as "A lot of Theo," "Grrrreeeattt!" and "Not Bad, But Watch Your Feet"), "Sic" zips along at a good pace, running 70 minutes with no intermission.

"Sic" continues now through Dec. 13th at the Strand, 1823 N. Charles Street, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 for students, seniors and "broke." For more information, call 443-874-4917 or visit


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From This Author - Daniel Collins

A communications professional since 1984, Dan Collins was a theater critic for The Baltimore Examiner daily newspaper (2006-2009), covering plays throughout the Baltimore-Columbia area including Cente... Daniel Collins">(read more about this author)


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