Tales You Lose
Fringe staple, Gerard Harris decided to get wild this year. Fringe performers gone wild. Could that be a new webseries? Harris decided that instead of pre-writing a show, he would wing it. For some people, winging it is sure stage death because improvisational storytelling is just not their thing. They hem, haw, um, ah, lose focus, go on tangents, begin to tank as a joke doesn’t hit its target, twitch, stutter. Not so, Gerard Harris. He hem, haws, ums, ahs, loses focus, goes on tangents, twitches, and stutters naturally. Preparation plays no role in that. Improvisational storytelling very much is his thing and the jokes come so fast that there’s no time for them to fall flat before he’s on to the next. For 55 minutes (because he invites an opener), he rockets through his story about making it to a conference on time. Along the way, we learn all manner of facts about the man — his love of quoting Shakespeare, a connection to the world of spies and his route to being a Fringe performer. He’s unabashedly ADHD and at the same time unabashedly British with all of its self loathing, irony, reservation, and braininess. It’s hard to believe you can get the two in one person. OK, so he’s not really “British” but a Zimbabwe/South Africa mash who grew up in the UK, and I only mention that because I am sure he will correct me. As I also know he will read this and over-analyze every word with the neuroses of a Freudian psychoanalyst, I’m thinking the glasses are a good look for him. Anyway, great show, audience ate it up, the hour flew. Highly recommended. — Rachel Levine
Tales you Lose is at the Mission Santa Cruz (60 Rachel E). June 17 @ 18, June 18 @ 22:15. Tickets HERE.
Jon Bennett: Playing With Men (Aussie Rules Football)
I saw this show born at Solos Fest to a very subdued but sympathetic audience about six months ago. Bennett fans, basically, came out on a day of inclement weather to serve as midwives. Told in Bennett style — powerpoint accompaniment, clips of his family, embarrassing reveals, momentos of life in rural Australia, audience participation, and lots of lots of lots of heart — it ended wth Bennett breaking down in tears as he recited the childhood poem we’d goaded him into reciting. Whoa. I felt the fragile infancy of the show and then Bennett whisked his baby away. Solos shows only get one showing. Would this one ever breathe air again? Anyone who has seen Bennett’s other shows: Pretending Things are a Cock, My Dad’s Deaths, or Fire in the Meth Lab, knows he’s a secure, magnetic performer. Having the confidence to take a new work that feels like a premature bundle in the ICU and keep stretching, smoothing, and exercising it into health before a live audience night after night is a gift of trust. While I don’t think the show’s journey to performance maturity is over, I don’t think it’s far either. Playing With Men begins with the question, what are your hopes, dreams, and goals, and ultimately evolves into a story about how Bennett’s life took a different path from that of a difficult friend who sought Bennett’s friendship and couldn’t manage it. Bennett presents himself as a case study for universal themes, and there’s a tension as to what gets emphasis: life goals or difficult friends. Of the two, Bennett seems to know that talking about his vocation is easy and people latch onto this because it is a low branch to grab. Yet, the more complicated aspect, the friendship, demands a different, more soul-searhing analysis. This is the part I want to know more about, where Bennett has something new and pertinent to say. If you’ve never seen a Jon Bennett show, well, go. His shows are an experience. If you’ve seen the others, consider this a chance to see Bennett in a more raw form. It feels less secure, but it also makes me think that maybe when a show reaches perfection, the artist has been doing it for too long. — Rachel Levine
Jon Bennett: Aussie Rules (Playing With Men) is playing at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E) June 17 @ 14:45 and June 18 @ 20:30. $12. Tickets HERE.