Chris Anger in The Best Part. Photo by Bill Brymer.
The Louisville Improvisors & The Bard’s Town present: Single Shots
Various writers and directors
Review by Eli Keel
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Eli Keel. All rights reserved
Theatre comes in all shapes and sizes, but one of my enduring personal favorites is the one-person show.
It’s a sub genre that still contains a host of different approaches. Works run from highly fictionally to raw and deeply personal. The structures, or frameworks, include very literal device that gives the characters a reason to speak directly to the audience, as well as more stylized direct interactions without a theatrical conceit.
Single Shots, The Louisville Improvisers mini festival featuring one-person shows, ran the gamut when it premiered on Friday night.
The festival featured four original works; two shorter pieces clocking in at around twenty minutes each; and two longer pieces, each closer to an hour. The festival is small, limited to works by the improvisers or their close theatrical comrades.
In Godforsaken, playwright Cisco Montgomery offers a meditation on faith, by way of an on camera sermon from a televangelist, played by Shane Antonio.
It’s the most straightforward and literal piece of the evening. The evangelist has a perfectly good reason to speak directly to the audience about faith, because that’s his job. Antonio has plenty of panache for preaching, and kept the audience engaged. I found myself wondering why I haven’t seen him on local stages more often. The guy can carry a role.
The script centers around one long sermon, and was described in press materials as containing a “crisis of faith.” Director Larry Muhammad doesn’t push Antonio as far into the crisis zone as I was hoping, instead offering a less tension filled rumination. It’s got plenty of comedy, and Antonio rung a fair share of laughs and “amen” from the audience before his sermon ended.
The other short piece, Eyes in the Storm, by Rachel White, showed us Regina, a storm photographer on a beach, dealing with her memories and inner turmoil. Eyes featured actor Katherine Martin, who turns in a restrained performance; Hushed and engaging, she mirrored the quiet before a storm. It was a solid choice, likely encouraged by director Brian Hinds.
White’s script is full of dreamy imagery, and personal exploration. Regina is a well-formed and complex character, and the setting is novel and revelatory.
The Best Part, is Chris Angers fourth one-person show in as many years. Anger, who wrote and performed under direction from Alec Volz, is a good storyteller, a comedic wit, and a keen observer of the human condition.
His piece centered on his now deceased mother, and the many airplane trips he took to Las Vegas, where she was living as her health failed.
It’s an effective dual focus. The airplane sections are used to break up the heavier moments; though there are also happy memories surrounding Anger’s mother Patricia.
One of my favorite parts of Angers output is his sense of story. The details he feels are important – about a plane trip with ditzy drunks, or about the last time he saw his mother alive, or a host of other things – aren’t what you might expect.
I also never get the sense that there is hyperbole or generalization. Anger’s stories are well observed small moments from life, which gives them plenty of weight.
Doug Schutte’s You Say Tomato, I Say Go Fuck Yourself, also approaches personal tragedy with humor.
Tomato covers Shutte’s whole life, with frequent stops along the way to share the writings of “Earl the Prophet.”
Earl is a pen name, Schutte tells the audience, one that he has often written under over the years. Earl helps Schutte channel humor in times of emotional distress. Schutte mostly presents these sections as readings, missing an opportunity to create a stage version of Earl a little further away from Schutte’s normal jovial personality.
Schutte has good stage presence and a lot of energy. His work here is raw, and at times difficult to watch. When he is holding back tears describing the death of his brother, it isn’t acting. As such it’s difficult to evaluate given conventional theatrical metrics, but the piece felt like it could have used just a little tightening, and it clocked in at a little over an hour.
The entire festival was made of engaging work, at turns brave, or polished, or hilarious, or tragic. This is Single Shots second year, and hopefully The Louisville Improvising will keep lining shots up for several years to come.
The Louisville Improvisors & The Bard’s Town present: Single Shot
GODFORSAKEN by Cisco Montgomery
The Best Part by Chris Anger
Eyes In The Storm by Rachel White
You Say Tomato, I Say Go Fuck Yourself: An Absolute Moron’s Guide To Being An Absolute Moron by Doug Schutte
September 2 & 3, 2016
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Eli Keel is a Louisville based playwright, poet, storyteller, and freelance journalist. He has been published in Word Hotel, his plays have been produced by Theatre  and Finnigan Productions, and he was invited to read his work at the 2014 Writer’s Block. He is a frequent contributor to LEO Weekly and Insider Louisville, where he has been given the (informal) title of “Chief of the Bureau of Quirk.”