nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 24, 2010
Somebody needs to give Anthony Johnston a job! In the theatre, that is; he already has one in the restaurant biz—or had one, if his new one-man show Tenderpits is to be trusted as autobiography. This performance piece, billed as the tale of a boy who believes he's a wizard who emigrates to America, makes the case for Johnston the actor to find employment, for it's a dazzling display of his versatility, charm, and energy. Johnston's credits, in the program, include stints in famous contemporary plays like Equus and The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? in his native Canada. Let's get him on the boards in some work of that ilk here in the USA.
In Tenderpits, Johnston performs a scene where he plays a waiter to two stuffed animals (very sweet and ingratiating); sings "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid (in a hastily-stitched-together but wholly effective Ariel get-up); recites a raunchy Craigslist personal ad and, later, recounts an even raunchier story about a sex party; lip-synchs to "I Put a Spell on You"; impersonates his sister; breaks the fourth wall by asking people in the audience for money; dons a variety of convincing accents and dialects; and strips down to a diaper (in which he performs most of the show).
I wished that Tenderpits had stayed more focused on one or another of the potentially interesting themes it raises. At first, I thought it was going to be an honest glimpse into Johnston's struggles to become a performer in America after leaving a more secure career in Canada... and then I thought Johnston was going to develop the idea of a being a wizard as a metaphor for being gay.... and then I thought he just might be planning to take that diaper off... (He doesn't.)
So, yeah, this show is on the disjointed/anarchic/chaotic/schizophrenic side; it's a vaudeville more than a play that covers lots of ground and variously demonstrates Johnston's wide range, intelligence, exhibitionism, and chutzpah. Mostly, it's an effective showcase for a performer with skill, talent, and energy to spare, which brings me to my original thesis: casting agents, directors, and producers with an adventurous heart and imagination would do well, seriously, to catch this guy's act.