Floyd Collins is a play about a man trapped in a cave.
He dies at the end.
Did I mention that it's a musical?
In 1925, a man named Floyd Collins was crawling through some underground caves, looking for a cavern he could turn into a tourist trap, when his foot got stuck under a rock, trapping him in a space so small that no rescuer could free him. Floyd's plight led to what was allegedly the country's first "media circus"—and Floyd, in the few days before his death, became a national celebrity.
Stumptown Stages' production of Floyd Collins sounds good on paper (well, if you can get past the "It's a musical about a man trapped in a cave" thing). Artists Repertory Theatre's Jon Kretzu directs, and Portland stalwarts Kirk Mouser and Susannah Mars head up a solid roster of local acting talent.
Unfortunately, despite some valiant efforts from the cast, the show is a clunker. Floyd Collins contains some of the most ridiculous writing I've been privy to. A few choice lyrics: "Lord have mercy on my soul/Don't let me die alone in this hole." The overall tone of the production is uncertain, encompassing both ironic commentary (three young reporters spoof the media frenzy in a funny, Fosse-inspired song-and-dance routine), and the genuine distress of Floyd's family—conveyed largely via overwrought, maudlin ballads.
Kirk Mouser plays the man in the cave, and while he adeptly conveys a sense of claustrophobia, he also spends much of the play howling like a hillbilly gone feral. His full-throttle, one-note performance makes it hard to invest in a character who is not particularly sympathetic to begin with.
Standout performances come from some of the younger cast members, however: Tyler Caffal gives a grounded, intelligent performance as "Skeets" Miller, a young reporter who finds himself becoming part of the performance, while Erin Charles, as Floyd's sister, brings a depth to her role that most of the other performers lack. Ultimately, though, the show had me fervently wishing that Floyd would just croak already: not exactly a glowing recommendation.