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The Dragon Griswynd

Theatre Review by James Wilson - September 10, 2018

Jenne Vath, Steven Hauck, and Charles Turner
Photo by Richard Termine

It can't be easy being the last remaining dragon on earth, a planet which humans do not even inhabit anymore. Without knights to harass, enchanted castles to guard, and dungeons to haunt, life can be unbearably lonesome. The Dragon Griswynd, Carrie Robbins's new play, currently running at the Theater for the New City as part of the Dream Up Festival, presents a sad but resilient figure living in a post-apocalyptic and devastatingly lonely world.

Griswynd (Charles Turner) is more than a millennia old (but looking centuries younger!), and he has lost most of his abilities to scorch and roar (let alone fly great distances because his wings have shrunk due to the unfortunate effects of getting old). He lives a solitary existence near a volcano, and he is one of the soul surviving lifeforms on earth since humans made the globe uninhabitable. Constant wars, nuclear detonations, and lack of concern for the environment have made the entire earth one big desolate wasteland.

Two androids, who go by their human names, Frank (Steven Hauck) and Marcia (Jenne Vath), have come from another galaxy, and they are completing a short research expedition. They are visitors from EarthAgain, planet earth's reboot, and they have arrived to collect samples and relics of the old world. Frank and Marcia are intrigued with the old dragon, and Griswynd pleads with the androids to take him with them to EarthAgain. Regrettably, there is just not enough room in their spacecraft for artifacts and an oversized dragon. Besides, androids are not exactly known for their compassion. It seems, then, Griswynd is destined to live out his existence writing poetry, journaling, and nostalgically pining for the good old days when humans and dragons not-so-peacefully coexisted.

Based on a story by R D Robbins, the play's premise is poignant and sharp. Dramatically, however, The Dragon Griswynd never takes off. The play makes some interesting philosophical points about aging, humans' capacity for destruction, and the consequences of loneliness, but it is not a biting and stimulating satire. Sadly, it remains resolutely inert for most of the running time even with the inclusion of singing fish and silly poems written in "Dragonich." As potential children's theatre, the production does not create a fantastic, fairytale world in which androids and dragons tickle one's imagination.

Directed by Joseph R. Sicari, the actors do credible work with the paper-thin and mostly expositional material given to them. As the titular dragon, Turner cuts a noble and sympathetic individual. He is tentative in some of the long monologues, but this seems fitting for a character whose physical strength and abilities have diminished. As the androids, Hauck and Vath are appropriately cartoonish and arrogant. After all, their characters are descendants of Watson, the champion Jeopardy! contestant created by IBM. They ooze superiority even if they have trouble navigating a spacecraft.

Playwright Carrie Robbins is best known for her work designing costumes, which have been nominated for Tony, Drama Desk, and LA Dramalogue Awards (among others). In addition to the costumes (Griswynd's dapper dragon outfit is especially witty), Robbins designed the scenery, which simply but persuasively evokes the dragon's lair. Christopher Stratis and Heather M. Crocker help create the dystopian world with their effective lighting and projections.

Alas, the play runs just over an hour in performance, but in its current iteration The Dragon Griswynd feels much longer. Like the ancient dragon at its center, the play emits a meagerly puff of smoke when one wishes it would emanate flames.

The Dragon Griswynd
Through September 16
Theatre for the New City, 155 First Avenue at East 10th Street
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix

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