There’s very little to recommend The Sphinx Winx over traditional B-movie fare, available at a lower price (and higher camp factor) from Netflix and local indie movie stores. Fans of Egyptian paraphanalia and themes can take a pass, since this show owes little aside from pop-culture references to Egypt. All this could be forgiven if the show were funny; alas it is not.
The low-fi romp is purely diversionary and the quality of performance from the cast members fluctuates significantly. The musical numbers serve almost no purpose – and aren’t even funny, with the (mild) exception of “Goodbye Ladies” in the latter half – and seldom move the story forward. While competent, there are no stand-out voices in the company. The story is more light farce than inspiring humor, and pre-21st-century farce at that. The spare set compliments the marketing material, though the latter shows a higher understanding of graphic subtlety than the former.
While the framework of Cleopatra’s (“Cleo,” here, played as a vaudeville diva by Erika Amato) lust for Marc Antony (Bret Shuford) is used to give the lowbrow comedy its initial thrust, the more interesting engagement is between Antony and Crecia (Rebecca Riker), the slave girl he falls for. The soothsayer’s role (played by Ryan Williams, who throws 150% into each of the three parts he inhabits) is intended, obviously, to anchor the play, but instead the shallow prophecies are humorous caveats. Writers and lyricists Philip Capice, Anne Hitchner, Kenneth Hitchner, Jr. and Robert Keuch have shown a propensity toward inane detail, humorous pauses; their ability to pace a full-length musical with an engaging plot, however, is still in question.
The play would be stronger if the writers had refocused the tale on their secondary characters, a la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, rather than maintaining the shrill harpy Cleo as the show’s protagonist. The website design and press materials (including the graphic design of the ads running on local Manhattan affiliates) are sharp and engaging, but over-sell their product.
Note: Due to a mix-up, this post was published several days early. The mistake was corrected immediately, and the entry has not been available again until 7pm EST 5/18/2011. Readers’ patience during this time has been much appreciated.