Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dream of a Ridiculous Man

It is a shame that Matt Johnston and Matt Freeman's play, Dream of a Ridiculous Man has already gone to that Great Production in the Sky, since it truly was - is - a fine piece of work. One-man shows are always difficult, especially since they require so much energy from the performer and so much attention from the audience that it’s very easy to lose both at some point in the show. (Listening attentively to someone speak non-stop for longer than 10 minutes is not the easiest thing in the world.)

Dream of a Ridiculous Man, adapted from a story by Fyodor Dostoevsky, does not have this problem. It is quite engaging from beginning to end (it's also quite short; only about 45 minutes. However, I've seen ten-minute one-man shows that seemed to rival Strange Interlude in runtime). This has to do with all three parts and collaborators being very much in synch with one another: the direction (by Mr. Johnston), the adapted script (by Mr. Freeman) and the acting (by Karl Miller).

All of these elements, plus being a very simple and compelling story about corruption and redemption, make the show work.

Mr. Miller plays the ridiculous man in question, an unnamed narrator (very much like many of Dostoevsky’s characters: a self-loathing and alienated intellect) who decides to kill himself. Due to a weird incident between himself and a young girl, he has a dream that he describes to his audience that makes him question his suicidal tendencies.

Mr. Miller is a very charismatic and believable performer that earns the audiences’ sympathies almost immediately. Neither he - nor Mr. Johnston with his direction - indicates his actions, something endemic in many one-man shows that can drive you up the wall (i.e., the actor says he’s walking, then pantomimes walking in place). Despite Mr. Freeman admitting to taking liberties with the original story, it feels to be very faithful to the source material (I say "feels" because, although I haven’t read the original short story, I’m at least familiar enough with Dostoevsky’s work to recognize that this play was obviously adapted from a story by him: it definitely feels Dostoevskian).

I (strongly) suggested to MattJ after the show that he and Karl do what Wallace Shawn originally did with The Fever: perform it in people's apartments for small groups of 6-12 people. It would take (I think) only some minor tweaking in the direction and adaptation from the acting (i.e., walking around the living room for an hour or two before beginning) but the show lends itself quite well to such a "tour."

Plus, it would be free and allow the play to have some legs.

I do hope he considers this (and that Mr. Miller is up for it for at least a little while), because it truly is a fine work that deserves more than just a two-night run.

Totally ridiculous,

James "Daydreaming Jerk" Comtois

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Blogger Cat* said...

I just have to niggle and point out that technically I was the first one to say it should be in a "room with throw pillows and bean bag chairs and a pipe being passed around" you're just the one who got all "literary" and compared it to Mr. Shawn :P

1:12 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Hmmmm...nope. I think I said it first. Nyeah!

Well, okay, maybe you did say it first. But I probably wasn't listening.

Ahhh, I'm priceless.

1:15 PM  

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