Jacob Cooper & Jason M. Jones in Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats Of Loneliness. Photo: Bill Brymer
Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats Of Loneliness
By Anthony Neilson
Directed by Tony Prince
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
For the final production of The Liminal Playhouse, Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats Of Loneliness is an apt choice, even though it’s selection predates the decision to close up shop. It speaks to the core of creativity and the beautiful artifice of theatricality.
Anthony Neilson’s play is set on a Victorian music hall stage (magnificently realized by Scenic Designer Eric Allgeier) on which Impresario Edward Gant (Jason M. Jones) has brought his small but enthusiastic troupe to tell stories of loneliness and desperation. These tales are quite strange, filled with oddly afflicted characters who push the boundaries of good taste and violate the integrity of the human body. In the first, a pitiable woman named Santonetta is beset by oversize pimples the eruption of which improbably lead to great wealth if not happiness.
Santonetta is played by Madame Poulet (Lauren Argo), and the other two members of the troupe are the ceaselessly loyal Jack Dearlove (Jacob Cooper), and the rebellious Nicholas Ludd (Spencer Korcz), and the names are sure clues to the nature of the characters and where they will all stand by the end of the play.
That ending arrives after a good deal of disruption and deconstruction. It is here that Neilson assuredly pushes past the pastiche of Victorian music hall, delivering us into a rumination of the very nature of theatre and the artist’s identity.
Director Tony Prince has allowed his cast to play broadly within the stories, and they fearlessly attack the ridiculous action with gusto but also uncover the smaller moments of humanity so that they have earned the integrity of final scenes in which they are their “real” selves. Although the troupe members confidently carry the weight of the outrageous physical comedy and earn every laugh, Jason M. Jones’ Edward Gant is the most crucial performance, a journey from polished 19th century showman to tortured artist exposed in the most excrutiating manner. Jones is good enough to make you believe nobody else could play it.
In addition to the aforementioned set, Keith Kimmel delivers spot on properties and Prince and the cast manage terrific costumes that seem period appropriate and resolutely silly. The wigs and costumes in Gant’s troupe are just shabby enough to keep the show-within-a-show framework clear and grounded, and establishing a context that made various mishaps entirely in keeping with the spirit of the piece.
Featuring Lauren Argo, Jacob Cooper, Jason M. Jones, & Spencer Korcz
After watching The Liminal Playhouse for seven years, it would be easy to see Edward Gant as the kind of entertainment that the company has assiduously avoided; easy to relate to, full of slapstick and gross, scatological humor. Yet it’s ideas are as developed and provocative as any other Liminal show. Every play that Tony Prince and Richard McGrew chose to produce was a regional premiere, ranging from the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning Clybourne Park to the little-known The Fastest Clock in the Universe, and all were plays that challenged the audience. They were funny, scary, thoughtful, beautiful and sometimes addressed American society but other times recognized higher, universal truths about the human comedy. Louisville has a thriving, restless theatre community full of promise, but there is also a sense that, with the end of The Liminal Playhouse, we may not soon see its like again.
Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats Of Loneliness
May 26, 27, 28, June 2, 3, & 4 @ 7:30 pm
May 29 & June 5 @ 2:00 pm
Tickets are $22 on the day of the show or $20 in advance at https://TheLiminalPlayhouse.org.
The Liminal PlayhouseThe Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. 3rd Street,
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.