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Theatre / Octet

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I was okay once, I can be okay again, I've not gone crazy just yet.

Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.

Octet is a "chamber choir musical" written and composed by Dave Malloy, the creator of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 and Ghost Quartet. It focuses on a meeting for the "Friends of Saul," a support group for internet addicts, and the impact life in the age of social media has had on its eight members. The show premiered off-Broadway in summer 2019 to critical acclaim, and a crowd-funded live cast recording was released that October.


This musical contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A Cappella: Nearly the entire musical. The only non-organic sounds are pitch pipes and some infrequent found-object percussion.
  • Adult Fear: Toby's brief monologue at the start of "Actually" addresses that the fear that your child can be exposed to so much awful content online, and as such, they will be "the greatest monsters humanity has ever created."
  • Actually Pretty Funny: After reading off a litany of pick-up lines she's gotten during "Solo," Karly admits the last one - "Are you a 0% APR loan? Because I'm having trouble understanding your terms, and you aren't showing any interest." - is actually pretty good.
  • all lowercase letters: A section of "Fugue State" and all the lyrics in "Tower Tea Ceremony" are printed in this fashion. After all, "lowercase and no punctuation/that means you feel it in your soul."
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  • Anti-Love Song: "Solo." "Glow" could be considered this too.
  • Arc Words: "Monster."
  • Basso Profundo: Ed. At one point, he hits a B-flat 2, the lowest note in any of Malloy's shows.
  • Black Comedy: Midway through "Little God," one of Marvin's coworkers suggests they kill Little God to see if she really is immortal. Little God obliges.
  • Bookends: "The Forest" and "The Field" both open with Paula playing a note on her pitch pipe and the rest of the group harmonizing.
  • Bottle Episode: The show takes place entirely within a church basement.
  • BSoD Song: "Little God." "Actually" also becomes this at the end.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    Marvin: We traveled into black holes, into quarks; we slipped through time backwards and sideways; we created new life forms, living suns; we watched the universe multiply, invert, spiral, disappear. We beheld an infinity of wonders - and yet, we sat at our desks in stoic calculation, stripped of awe, paralyzed by the unforgiving relentlessness of our intellect.
  • Call-Back:
    • Karly asks herself "when will those three cherries line up?" during her section of "Solo," which could be taken as a reference to the games Henry loves in "Candy."
    • The refrain of "Refresh" appears again in "Actually" as Toby goes completely off the rails.
    • During "Little God," Marvin uses the phrase "It's like throwing your mind against a wall" when talking about the arguments he gets in on scientific forums. The phrase reappears towards the end in a much darker context.
  • Central Theme: The internet, addiction, and how the two intersect.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Employed to devastating effect in "Little God." It's Marvin's ultimate explanation for why there's no way to conclusively prove Little God is actually a God-like power.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Toby.
  • Dark Reprise: The chorus of "Candy" gets a lot harder to swallow at the end of the song, that's for sure.
  • Death Seeker: Henry suspects himself of being this.
  • Distant Duet: "Solo" is a variant of this: Ed and Karly are singing different songs, but they come together at the end, and their problems are similar.
  • Epigraph: "Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse," a quote attributed to Sophocles.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Beautiful." With everyone else in the group unconscious after the Tower Tea Ceremony, Velma is left alone to tell her story: how the internet helped her realize that she isn't alone.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show is called Octet, and it features eight performers.
  • Foreshadowing: Marvin's monologue in "Fugue State" hints at the full extent of his story, which he later reveals in full in "Little God." The same goes for Karly.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Little God takes the form of an eleven-year-old girl in a mermaid costume. Marvin explains that Little God told them she did this to appear less threatening.
  • Friendship Song: "Beautiful" is this, and possibly a little more depending on your interpretation.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: At the start of "Actually," Toby says he's "seeing a lot of grays right now...just not a lot of blacks and whites." This is his fatal flaw.
  • Hates Being Alone: At the bottom of everything, Ed's trauma in "Solo" can be traced to this.
  • Hearing Voices: One night while trolling an intelligent design forum, Marvin starts to hear a voice in his headphones. The voice belongs to God...maybe.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Marvin is a downplayed example of this.
  • Instant Web Hit: "Refresh" shows what happens to somebody on the dark side of this, as Jessica becomes the star of another "white woman goes crazy" video and faces the backlash.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Viciously deconstructed in "Solo."
  • Live Album: The cast recording is one of these. Every so often you can hear the audience laughing at certain lines.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The second half of "Candy."
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • "Candy" goes from a jaunty little number about how much Henry enjoys his mobile games to a harrowing account of how he can barely function without them.
    • "Little God" swings rapidly from a darkly comic monologue about Marvin's encounter with a God-like being to a brutal reckoning of how Marvin's rationalism has ruined him.
  • Madness Mantra: "Fugue State" ends with the ensemble repeating "I am obsessed with my monster/I am obsessed with myself."
  • Magical Realism: "Little God."
  • Minimalist Cast: As the name suggests.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jessica goes through this when she realizes the woman in the "white woman goes crazy" video is her.
  • Painting the Medium: All sung lyrics in the show are written in all-caps, except for the section in "Fugue State" where Ed and Marvin talk about how using all lowercase and no punctuation is the best way to make an argument. Fittingly, all the sung lyrics in "Tower Tea Ceremony" are also in lowercase.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jessica delivers one of these at the climax of "Refresh."
  • Religion Rant Song: If you wanna look at it from that angle, "Little God" fits the bill.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Actually" slowly grows into one of these for Toby.
  • Schmuck Bait: In "Fugue State," Toby claims that he's found "the secret" at a YouTube address, which he actually sings out character by character. It's a Rick Roll.
  • Shout-Out: "Little God" has Marvin mention a lab partner of his named Trillian. Both are named for characters in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Downplayed. Paula puts a "powerful group psychedelic" in the cups of tea during "Tower Tea Ceremony," but it's a voluntary part of the meeting that most members consent to. Velma still balks.
  • Social Media Is Bad: The core of the show is the psychological impact that the age of social media has had on the members of the "Friends of Saul," and most of them have been traumatized by it in one way or another. But this is also subverted by Velma, the youngest member of the group. She's the only person in the cast who has a positive story about her experiences with the internet, and her number is placed right at the end for maximum imapct.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Little God uses this to prove her immortality to Marvin and his coworkers.
  • Straw Nihilist: To an extent, Toby. "Fuck it. Nothing changes. No one revolts unless they're hungry. People only change because of trauma or light rain."
  • Tarot Motifs: Velma is fascinated with Tarot, and per Word of God, each song, and by extension, each character, is associated with a card in the Major Arcana:
    • "The Field" - The Moon
    • "Refresh"/Jessica - The Hierophant
    • "Candy"/Henry - The Hermit
    • "Glow"/Paula - The High Priestess
    • "Fugue State" - Wheel of Fortune
    • "Monster" - The Devil
    • "Solo"/Karly & Ed - The Lovers & Death
    • "Actually"/Toby - The Magician. Toby even calls himself the Magician at the height of his madness
    • "Little God"/Marvin - The Hanged Man. Explicitly mentioned by Velma after Marvin's monologue.
    • "Tower Tea Ceremony" - The Tower
    • "Beautiful"/Velma - The Fool
    • "The Field" - The World
  • The Leader: Paula is the founder of the group.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: When the other members of the group say the voice Marvin hears in "Little God" was just someone having a laugh, Marvin responds that he thought so too. Then the voice says...
    God Chorus: NO, NO, I'M NOT HAVING A LAUGH.
  • Troll: "Monster" paints the titular monster as one of these. Marvin also admits he goes onto forums late at night to argue with believers of intelligent design in "Little God."
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: The show takes place at a meeting of the "Friends of Saul," a support group for internet addicts.
  • You Are Not Alone: "Beautiful" is about Velma meeting "a girl from Saint-Marie" on the internet who opens her eyes to this.
  • 0's and 1's: One part of "Fugue State" briefly features the group singing in binary code. When translated, it spells out the word "HUG."

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