Chris Anger

Dead Astronauts – A Comic Monologue

Written & performed by Chris Anger
Directed by Alec Volz

Presented as a part of the SLANT Culture Theatre Festival

Reviewed by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

SLANT features three one-person shows this year, including this highly personal monologue from comic Chris Anger. A co-founder of The Louisville Improvisors and instructor of improvisation comedy techniques, he here steps into slightly new territory: that of noted monologists such as the great Spalding Gray and current controversial practitioner Mike Daisy. Sitting calmly at a small classroom table, with bottled water and handwritten notes at the ready, he proceeds to tell a tale drawn entirely from first-hand experiences.

His foundation is that he comes “from a long line of comics with heart trouble.” And a key framing location is the hospital where Anger is forced to face his own mortality. The funny man is exploring demons that are his own but that are also commonly encountered (drugs and alcohol also play important roles), but he brings his uniquely wry, acerbic voice to the telling. What is unusual is the warmth and vulnerability that characterize the performance. Anger blunts his edge slightly for the sake of accessibility, perhaps because he is exposing himself in new ways.

There is also some fine coming-of-age stories set in Green Chimneys, a farm for children with emotional and behavioral difficulties. Anger wisely limits the scope of his context but develops a vivid sense of place for these restrictive environments that dominate his stories. He describes both Green Chimneys and the hospital as prisons of a kind in terms that command the audience’s empathy.

Where he runs into problems is with structure and pace. The material is never dull. But to truly sustain attention for approximately 45 minutes and achieve maximum impact, it needs to build more carefully, and there are a couple of awkward transitions that jar more than deepen the connection with the audience.

Still, this is new, untried work. Think of it as a workshop production that takes smart advantage of SLANT’s experimental culture. As Anger leans across his desk, delighting in the laughter he is provoking, you can see an active interaction with the audience, a sensitivity to response that suggests the piece is organic and growing even as he performs it. Despite its current shortcomings, Dead Astronauts makes for a lively evening in the company of a sure comic hand.

Dead Astronauts – A Comic Monologue

November 16 at 9:00pm
November 17 at 4:00pm
November 21 at 9:00pm
November 24 at 5:30pm

Alt Stage at Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street

Part of the SLANT Culture Theater Festival