I've been Elvita Adams
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 25, 2011
Part standup comedy, part improv with audience participation, and part poignant character study, Ashley Lloyd Smith's solo performance I've been Elvita Adams is a weird duck indeed. I saw it at a late afternoon midweek matinee with a small (though hearty) audience; my sense is that it's been crafted for late-night engagements at a pub or similar venue filled with twenty- and thirtysomethings with easy access to alcoholic beverages.
Smith begins his show even before it begins with a silent game of balloon ball with members of the audience. He genuinely connects with us during these moments, which is why it's jolting when—as the show proper begins—he goes through a ritualized transformation, shedding his tux and revealing the paisley print dress of Elvita Adams underneath.
Elvita Adams tried to kill herself by jumping off the Empire State Building, but failed to do so. (This really happened; it's on Wikipedia.) Smith's conceit is that Adams went on to become a standup comic after her abortive attempt at suicide—but of course the audiences are only interested in hearing about her suicide attempt. So the act, which is more or less the bulk of this show, is a failure, too, while providing an odd glimpse into a person so desperate that she'd try to kill herself but not so desperate that she'd try again.
The monologue runs the gamut from responses to questions that have been supplied to audience members, to a weird PowerPoint presentation about Empire State Building suicide physics, to the recitation of a lengthy fairy tale that, at one point, features audience-generated sound effects. The piece concludes with its most affecting bit, a profane but angry song about a gay youth who kills himself by jumping off another building.
Smith has obvious talent and charisma to spare, but at least in this environment I didn't feel we were seeing all that he was capable of. I'd like to see him in command of a crowded room; I bet he really sparks with enough fuel from the audience to get him going.
This is, all in all, one of the more eclectic offerings of FringeNYC. It will be interesting to see if Smith, who is from Great Britain, will journey across the pond again sometime in the future.