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Off Broadway Reviews

Koalas Are Dicks

Theatre Review by Jose Solís - February 11, 2018

According to Larry Phillips' play Koalas Are Dicks, but they've got nothing compared to humans. The marsupial at the center of the play (running at Theatre 80 in the East Village) is named Brody (Peter Buck Dettmann) and he's the biggest TV star in America. After being discovered by a visionary producer outside an Australian airport, he was flown to the US, where he was trained and eventually was given the lead in a sitcom. But Brody's had enough of the Hollywood life and has gone down a rabbit hole of drugs, sex and alcohol as his lawyer (Patrick T. Horn) re-negotiates his contract. While the people closest to him try to get him out of his existential funk, Brody mopes and follows a path that the tabloids have made way too familiar to us.

If the premise of the play isn't particularly fresh (it riffs on the masterful Netflix show Bojack Horseman which is the apotheosis of depressed animal narratives) there are several moments of hilarity that make the show entertaining enough. Most of the humor stems from the fact that even if we can understand what Brody says, none of the characters in the play "speak koala" (one wonders what sounds they hear as Brody goes into melancholy soliloquies) and as they believe Brody means one thing through his body language, he's often giving them the finger.

Director Ben Liebert effectively injects a screwball spirit into a play that relies too much on crassness and absurdity, at times stretching punchlines way past their expiration date, or reinforcing why certain things are funny, when they're not really all that. Even if the characters onstage are a collection of selfish, blood sucking fiends, the actors playing them give each other enough room to deliver jokes and develop chemistry. Phoebe Leonard as stuck up British actress Alison, is particularly fun to watch, with her mannerisms, poise and line delivery reminding one of scene stealing characters made iconic by Madeline Kahn.

The play doesn't overstay its welcome and ends on a note that elevates everything else that came before it. If the playwright was already hinting at the perversity of Hollywood, the show achieves its greatest moment when it sees beyond that and right into the human condition. The show's ending might take some by surprise, but despite its shocking twist, it doesn't feel unearned. Instead, it's as if the show finds its true nature, just as the curtain's about to come down. What better metaphor for how many people throw away their lives only to find redemption that comes too little too late?

Koalas Are Dicks
Through February 24
Theatre 80 St. Marks, 80 St. Marks at the corner of 1st Avenue
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix