Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface!
nytheatre.com review by Emily Otto
February 29, 2008
Dan Bernitt, at the tender age of 21, has already been touring his solo performances around the country for four years. Watching him perform his latest piece, Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface!, for a supportive late-night crowd at Under St. Marks, I had a sense of him growing up before our very eyes. In fact, he seems to evolve over the course of his production from a self-conscious, wisecracking teenager to a soulful young man who sees himself—and the world—through a wider lens. Bernitt is still settling into his storytelling style, but there's no question that his voice is one worth hearing.
While he is clearly comfortable onstage, Bernitt constructs his performance with very few bells and whistles. Dressed in a simple button-down shirt and jeans and armed only with a few folding chairs and several sound cues, he casually commands the stage with a series of monologues and poems, recounting his tales of young adulthood. The stories' topics range from the embarrassing (a wince-inducing surgery) to the erotic (a late-night sexual encounter) to the hilarious (the scabies resulting from said encounter). Bernitt navigates the changing moods of his work with easy confidence and charming wit. He keeps the audience rooting for him in the tales of his misadventures.
The earlier monologues, while entertaining, tread familiar coming-of-age ground. Bernitt really begins to shine, however, in his final two monologues, which are new to the show and read from printed pages. The first describes his awkward attempts (and improvisational success) at poetry performance among a gaggle of drag queens in a Provincetown talent contest, and the second offers a moving tribute to his parents, who deal with their newly emptied nest by creating a vivid imaginary life for their departed children's stuffed animals. Although these stories are the least polished part of Bernitt's performance, they carry a strong uniqueness of vision and a sense of perspective that his earlier work lacks. It's clear that his writing is improving, and we're watching it happen.
Bernitt shows tremendous promise as a writer and performer. He already has an impressive ability to make an audience fall in love with him over the course of one short hour. If he continues to hone his craft and focus on strengthening his individual voice, he could be one of America's next great monologists. In the meantime, see this show and nurture a budding talent in what will likely be a long and illustrious career.