by Wes Babcock
In The Orchid and the Crow, creator/performer Daniel Tobias delivers a moving and darkly funny chronicle of his battle with testicular cancer through the mediums of song and story.
Tobias has a wicked knack for audience interaction. He plays the crowd like another instrument with the pace of the text he has crafted and with witty improvisations when the moment calls for them. The energy he brings to the space is wonderful, and makes us remarkably willing to indulge whatever absurd tactics he is about to use in the service of sharing his story.
The tech and stage design in this show is quite strong as well, taking us from the cancer ward to ancient Israel and back with comic and poignant ease. The projections, the lighting states, and the set itself combine in the perfect evocation of place for each moment. The design is eminently well crafted, becoming another weapon in Tobias’ performance arsenal.
I was thus surprised at one point when Tobias leaves his “performing persona” microphone on the ground for a long period of time. The persistent white noise coming through the speakers was subtle, but distracting. Though it does (perhaps) allude to another, effective, moment later in the show, I would have expected a veteran musician like Tobias to be aware of the hazard of this choice. . The technician also could have eliminated the noise from the booth without anyone noticing. It seemed unintentional to me, and if it was an intentional moment of foreshadowing, it didn’t work that way for me.
All things considered, this is a minor quibble with a show that features strong writing, and some insightful comedic commentary. Tobias plays with a variety of (occasionally problematic) reprised stereotypes in his songs and forces us without undue discomfort or melodrama to consider the present state of religion, health, and life in general. All this while anchoring these themes in poignant personal anecdote that makes us really care?
It is a hard balance to achieve, and Tobias overcomes all the hazards of such comedy and storytelling to deliver a splendidly entertaining performance.
The Orchid and The Crow
Button Eye Productions
Created and performed by Daniel Tobias