Tentacle Erotica?

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Part of the fun of theater is learning about worlds you never knew existed and passions you'd never considered. Like. . .  tentacle erotica.

I'll let that sit a moment.

Okay, I'll save you the trouble of Googling it, playwright Stephen Yockey helped expose me to: octopus porn.

The vehicle is the salacious world-premiere of Mr. Yockey's play The Fisherman's Wife at Ensemble Studio Theater.

You might remember Mr. Yockey's from his play last year at Boston Court -- Heavier than . . . -- where he took the story of the minotaur and gave it a clever modern twist complete with a lovestruck Icarus. The LA-based playwright has another play, Wolves, that's a sexy twist on Little Red Riding Hood. Are you catching a theme?

To boil down Mr. Yockey's formula: take a classic myth or fairytale, give it a modern spin, add a helping of lust. Mix in a dab of self-aware, wink at the audience asides that let them know, that you know, what the game is - and hope for the best.

As recipes go it's not a bad one.

For The Fisherman's Wife, Mr. Yockey draws inspiration from a famous Japanese painting entitled the "Fisherman's Wife's Dream." Which is a bawdy canvas of a cephalopod and a woman engaged in . . .uh . . . well, okay just Google it.

He's mixed this erotic fantasy with a dash of the Grimm's fairytale by a same name and a classic traveling salesman yarn to come up with a sarcastic sex farce. The basic plot is husband and wife live in a miserable shack by the sea. Their relationship has seen better days. She's sexually unsatisfied. He's struggling. They bicker and he goes fishing. Enter the 'alternatively attractive' travelling salesman with a bag of goodies for her. Meanwhile, the fisherman encounters a magical octopus and squid who are both more than a little randy. I think you see where this is going.

At Ensemble Studio Theater it's playing in their new cabaret space, "The Speakeasy," and the play starts off feeling like a fun late night show -- even at the Sunday matinee that I saw. Director Gates McFadden keeps the acting crisp and comic. For the most part the cast is up to the challenge. When the octopus and squid appear in retro bathing suits you feel like you're in good hands -- or tentacles, as the case may be.

What keeps the show anchored down, if you'll pardon the pun, is its structure. Mr. Yockey is playing with repetition and at first it's fun. When our traveling salesman repeats the same pitch about "the joys of living in a seaside town" -- you're in on the joke. When we see the traveling salesman repeat what I'll call his ‘successful transaction' with both the man and wife - you get it. The trouble is Mr. Yockey doesn't know when to end a good thing. As a late night one-act, the play would've been a hoot. But it's a two act, that's fishing for something out of its grasp.

The Fisherman's Wife plays at Ensemble Studio Theater in Atwater Village through November 24.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Run time: 1 hour 45 minutes with an intermission.

Banner image; Patrick Flanagan and Sarah McCarron in The Fisherman's Wife. Photo by Kevin Riggin