[sic] was like watching a leisurely version of Seinfeld on stage.
Three 30-something characters – Theo (musician trained classically, he takes pains to tell us), Babette (author prone to borrowing money) and Frank (training to be auctioneer by reciting tongue-twisters) – share the floor of an apartment. These are the people we see; others exist in the framework but don’t make a stage appearance. There is a squabbling couple visible only through a silhouette in the window, a mysterious ‘Mrs. Jorgenson’ who is much talked about but never seen ‘live’, and Larry of course, the friend who affects the lives of all three.
These are grey characters with flaws obvious to the audience, if not to the characters themselves. Theo has no talent for composing, Frank doesn’t seem cut out for auctioneering and Babette’s book about "20th century outbursts" is clearly doomed. They are drawn together more out of locational proximity than because they trust or care about each other.
The play is driven by conversations and (often disjoint) vignettes, entertaining by themselves without anything very eventful binding them together. A couple of dramatic events do happen, which in another kind of play might have been the focal points of the story. Not here – in fact you are taken aback at the lightness with which they’re treated.
But there’s plenty to savour in the details. One of the play’s best sequences is the conversation between Frank and Theo at Theo’s apartment, when Frank plays effortless ditties on Theo’s keyboard and is cruelly crushed in response.
The script is sharp, intelligent and playful with words. It’s tagged as a comedy, which we’ve come to associate with gags and laugh-out-loud witticisms nowadays. This isn’t that kind of humor – it is pretty low-key, the quiet chuckle kind. Frank’s voice tape belts out philosophical one-liners pertinent to the situation on hand. There are random funny musings such as the one about the "alliterative purpose" of the Betty Butter tongue-twister, or the telling comment about landlords: ‘…when you share a landlord with people you have of course a built-in common enemy, and there’s just about nothing more bond-inducing than sharply focused ill-will.’
The dialogue delivery was somewhat slow and I think a faster pace would have worked better. The pauses may have been a deliberate decision, to let the clever turns of phrase get across to the audience or to channel an American style of speaking. A downside of this was that we could sometimes see the punch-line before it came.
The actors had evidently rehearsed thoroughly, right down to the number of raps when knocking on each others’ doors. In a 90-min play rich with conversation, it is to their credit that they sailed through it without fumbling anywhere. I did feel though that the acting wasn’t all that it could have been. Theo (Deepanjan Dey)’s diction might have been better. Frank (Nakul Bhalla, who has a very expressive face) could do with some more vigour in scenes where aggression was needed. Babette (Sharanya Ramprakash?) did the raised-eyebrows-open-mouth routine well which perhaps was in-character, but it was too one-dimensional.
There was a tiny problem with the lighting. The actors behind the screen were supposed to be seen in silhouette, but from where I sat I could see the guy behind clearly.
I didn’t absolutely love [sic] when it started but it grew on me slowly. The play has a certain whimsical allure, that’ll leave you charmed if not heartily amused.
Why the name [sic]?
Melissa James Gibson, the playwright, explains the title of her play in the "playwright’s note on performance":
Sic, of course, is a Latin term that appears in writing, as a signal to the reader that an apparent mistake is in fact an accurate citation. This notion of distancing one-self from responsibility informs the three main characters of the play, who exist at arm’s length from their own situations, as if their real lives were yet to be inhabited.
Incidentally, the American enactment of this play was awarded the 2001-02 Obie award, the annual award for off-Broadway productions.