Canadian ‘Ham’ Doesn’t Travel Well

Scott McCord and Elley Ray are at their best when sharing convincing moments between their characters. Photo by Priam Thomas.
Scott McCord and Elley Ray are at their best when sharing convincing moments between their characters. Photo by Priam Thomas.

FringeNYC Review: “Naked Hamilton”

Writer & Director: Sky Gilbert

1 hour

BY PUMA PERL | “Naked Hamilton” is described as the story of an aging sex worker and her ex-lover who are getting kicked out of their favorite bar due to gentrification.

The bar of DROM is the set, and the two characters are rarely seen onstage. The staging is effective in allowing for movement and realism, although the blocking runs into structural problems. The lighting is cleverly used to move the story along.

Scott McCord, as Tom, is brilliantly annoying, so realistic in his rants and in casting himself alternately as hero and victim that it didn’t take long for me to grow as irritated with him as I do with the loud, repetitive drunks that I avoid in bars. However, like my barfly friends, there is a goodness and a sadness beneath the bravado, and McCord, who has played the role in prior productions, provides an unexpectedly layered performance. 

Suzanne Bennett, as Tee, is not as successful. There is a perkiness and cheerfulness at odds with the nature of the character, and she appears more like a former Texas cheerleader dressed for Halloween than the debauched, tough, aging hooker demanded by the part. Her body language contains several signature gestures that are too controlled and planned, while McCord uses his body as if his bones were not quite connected.

Despite these flaws, there are convincing moments between them, in which they move rapidly from laughing to fighting, to reuniting against a common enemy in the “you and me against the world” mode that lends longevity to the most unstable duos. A dark secret, which would devastate most people, is revealed — but when immediate issues intrude, it is easily put to the side as they stumble on.

The main problem I have with the play is a weakness in the storyline. The narrative fails to provide a connection between the larger issues of gentrification with the story of two individuals who live their lives on the bottom. “Naked Hamilton” was originally presented in Hamilton, Canada, as a two-act play that focused on a different couple in the first half.

I think you may need to spend a lot less time in bars and a lot more time in Hamilton to fully appreciate this play.

Thurs. Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m., Sat. Aug. 22 at 12 p.m. At DROM (85 Avenue A, btw. Fifth & Sixth Sts.). For tickets ($18), visit FringeNYC.org. Also purchase at FringeCentral, inside the City Lore cultural heritage center (56 E. First St. btw. First & Second Aves.), daily from 2–8 p.m. Order on your smartphone up to 30 minutes prior to performance, at FringeOnTheFly.com.