I’m not really a clown kind of guy, but years ago, back in the 80’s, I spent a memorable evening of theatre in the presence of one of the best. Avner the Eccentric, he called himself, and I remember laughing as hard as I have ever laughed that night. You know the kind of laugh I mean: eyes narrowed and tears flowing, you just can’t smile any bigger, your inner 10-year-old is clamoring to be let out, and your abs just hurt, and even as you laugh, you have the presence of mind to say, “I haven’t laughed this hard in a long, long time.” That’s a “thank you” moment, and that night, I thanked God for Avner.
So now, after last night, it’s thank God for Lorenzo.
With Humor Abuse at The Seattle Rep, Lorenzo Pisoni (writer and actor) and Erica Schmidt (director) have crafted a quiet little masterpiece, a finished cabinet of a play. By that I simply mean that it brings the kind of joy detailed finish work brings, as opposed to the overwhelming grandeur of a giant house. With self-effacing humor, seeming incredulity, and frankness that never descends into meanness (how I cherish that spirit these days), Lorenzo lovingly critiques the world of his “clown dad” Larry, holding up the mirror to his old man (and himself) in such a way that by the end, we’ve all fallen for both father and son. I say fallen…Lorenzo, as expected, does most of the falling himself. Funny to say I could watch guys like him fall all day long.
Lorenzo apologizes up front for his lack of funniness, which of course, we laugh at. I confess I get a bit worried, because I know what it’s like to not be funny. But he’s lying, of course, as clowns are no doubt wont to do, the arts of deception and false perception being among their chief tools. So now, safe with the knowledge that little comedy would be forthcoming, we get coaxed into a little boy’s circus world. With stories of juggling and hat tricks and monkey suits, Lorenzo teases us into chortle and chuckle and knee-slap and finally, with fins and ladders and stairs and balloons and a woman from the audience in a little black dress, we are, by the end of the evening, back in that fabulous place of teary, bent over howling breathlessness, again saying thank you. And then…and then…a final moment, so beautifully crafted. Our hearts, so open with all that laughter, receive a a bit of well-earned astonishment. Even wisdom.
This is what honoring your story looks like. My impression is that Lorenzo, in sharing the shadows of his father’s all-too-human navigation of somewhat remote and anonymous pain, has himself landed in a place we all recognize. Upon examination, looking back, we stand flummoxed and astonished at our mysterious families, all at once sentimental and honest, both horrified and whimsically philosophical about it all. There are so many secrets for all of us, aren’t there? Our parents end up as regular, amazing folk, just like us, their lives full of injury and damages and running and finally, they break their backs (sometimes literally) chasing their ghosts and dreams. And so we reflect and consider these people who raised us, spending a lifetime of energy putting our stories together in ways we can not only make sense of, but beauty of. In the end, telling the truth the way Lorenzo does it, is an act of love. So much love.
And to top it all off, Lorenzo is just really good at what he does. Delightful…simple as that.
Go see this performance if you get the chance. Oh, yeah, one more thing: a final”hat’s off” to all those in the design of the space. Loved it. The lighting was fabulous.
Thanks, Lorenzo, not so much for the laughs, but for the magic…