My Name is Mudd, Rhinoceros Theater Festival, at Curious Theatre Branch. Questions about historiography undergird Shawn Prakash Reddy's formulation of the events surrounding Abraham Lincoln's assassination. And for many playwrights, the postmodern hall of mirrors created by asking slippery questions about authority and knowledge would be enough. But Reddy, who also directs, clearly wants to tease, entertain, and provoke. He doesn't just want to tip the applecart--he wants to tear it apart and send the wheels skittering across the stage. Toward that end he's fabricated a two-hour work, played by himself and five other actors, that's both a lecture and a sketch-comedy revue, a historical reenactment and a send-up of reenactments.
The resulting show should have been daring and hilarious and intellectually breathtaking. But the night I caught My Name Is Mudd, the comedy often seemed forced, the insights sophomoric, and the writing sloppy and in need of a good edit. These problems might have been the result of uneven performances. At times the ensemble appeared strong and in command--Guy Massey was particularly killing as John Wilkes Booth--but at other times skittish and unable to sustain either the comedy or the drama. And when a whole ensemble stumbles, it's typically the fault of the director. Certainly Reddy the director allows Reddy the actor to telegraph punch lines and go way over the top.