Reminiscent of work by Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson, Gabriel McCarthy’s one-man show communicates without words, relying instead on the actor’s ability to create meaning with his body and face. The story is vague, but its themes are clear. McCarthy’s show is about innocence, mortality, love, and art. There is also a sense of burgeoning manhood being explored by the performer who discovers the universe around him, but within an independence that he manufactures, almost to stake his claim on a personal and self-determined identity.
The show is 75 minutes long, and while it does switch gears often and there is plenty of variety to prevent any hint of self-indulgence, its scenes are not always engaging. The format of the production is challenging, as it requires of its audience, a mode of watching that is acutely different from what is conventional and mainstream. It does what it wants, with admirable eccentricity and idiosyncrasy, but we need something more. Many great works have touched audiences without the use of words, and it is the artist’s responsibility to locate that point of connection.
Erin Harvey is stage manager, and does a splendid job with the minimal technical facilities at hand. The show looks and feels refined, with a set by Christie Kay Bennett that is basic but considered and restrained. The show’s innumerable sound cues are a key feature, and Harvey’s faultless execution is noteworthy. A thorough understanding of the show and its performer is necessary, and the chemistry between tech and talent for this production is beautifully harmonious.
McCarthy is a performer with great skill and presence. He is phenomenally agile and energetic, and his ability to convey concepts and to express intention is remarkable. There are many memorable moments of vigorous gesturing and lively leaping, but the actor is equally effective in significant pauses, unafraid of a more silent approach. There is a sincerity to the man that is endearing, but his story is less captivating. Even though it is not difficult to follow, it is too abstract. We want to connect, but it is too distant. The tale seems personal, but it is also shrouded, and maybe a little elusive with its message.