nytheatre.com review by Joe Murphy
The title onemanshow connotes a spectrum of possibilities, ranging
from enjoying an artist’s sublime versatility of characterizations to
being stuck in a theatre suffering through a poor cousin of the genre.
This production is certainly at the better end of the spectrum. The show
presents several major characters and a few minor ones, all expertly
brought to life by Myles Thoroughgood. Though almost all are
African-American, the personas he creates are a diverse lot in age,
outlook and lifestyle.
August 15, 2002
The first character makes you wonder initially if Thoroughgood has not perhaps wandered onto the stage by mistake, but soon you realize that the segues into and out of the various characters will be as smooth and sophisticated as the acting itself. Credit the director Thommie Walsh, who one also assumes is responsible for the simple yet effective lighting changes that frame and complement the action.
The first character, who suggests an odd melding of Jerry Seinfeld and Desmond Tutu, gives an initial glimpse into Thoroughgood’s talent for wholly inhabiting the skin of another human being and for commanding the stage with his physical presence. But when he slips into his second personage, who couldn’t be more different in terms of attitude, voice and gender, you realize the performer’s talents go far beyond mimicry. Thoroughgood started his career as a dancer, and those skills are in evidence in the grace, power and dexterity that subtly inform some of his personas, and in several instances of flat-out boogying.
In addition to acting and dancing, Thoroughgood also wrote the pieces, which is an impressive hat trick, since each character’s story is believable and compelling. A few might come dangerously close to caricature were it not for the performer’s competence, but the others are entirely fresh, such as one child whose innocent observations of family life slowly reveal a darker reality evident to the adult listener. The subject matter jumps around from romance, politics, and self-help to racial and gender identity, and the mood varies from comic to poignant, all of it suffused with intelligence and wit.
The only nagging peccadillo is that the pace sometimes seems rushed so that some rich moments or significant lines were not given sufficient time to register.
All in all, though, onemanshow is onegoodshow.