Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness!
nytheatre.com review by Joan Kane
August 10, 2012
Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness!, by Anthony Nelson, uses the methods of Victorian magic lantern shows popular in the 1880s to examine fantastic and tragic stories of the great comedy of human existence. The play follows Edward Gant and his troupe of performers as they unveil his curious spectacles of grief, isolation, and gloom. The San Francisco-based company 99 Stock presents this wickedly funny, grotesque comedy complete with masks, cockney accents and strangely fun, over–the-top acting.
Director Michael Saarela keeps this manic, comic narrative flowing while occasionally pausing for tender romantic moments. From the minute the audience enters the theater until the very end, we are engaged in the plight of the characters. But this is more than just a high-styled comedy with broad jokes. Questions about the sadness, ugliness, loneliness, and fear that we all endure are examined throughout. In a program note the director states
The crux of Gant's show stems from this; how do we cope with that which we can't control? Some try to bury sadness while others wallow in depression, trying to grasp its meaning. We fear what we can't control.
The cast—Ian Hopps, Serra Naiman, Brandon Cusak, and Geneva Hollman, and two uncredited performers who moved props and set pieces—make up an ensemble who are expert at the broad-gestured, melodramatic style of the Victorian period. The comic timing of this troupe is masterful and the audience was rolling in the aisles with their vaudeville shenanigans. Geneva Hollman, with her Betty Boop looks, is an outstanding comedian and hilarious in a bear head! Ian Hopps, as Edward Gant, brings a quiet intensity and a chilling sadness to his command of the evening. Various members of the ensemble beautifully underscore the scenes with live music played on the piano, a zither, and an accordion.
Set designer Kirsten Royston cleverly created the world of the traveling trunk show with brightly colored patchwork quilts, old wooden trunks and a piano adorned with posters of the characters featured in the show. Prop designer Rachel Kerns provided colorful papier-mâché planets hanging on strings and stinging wasps, which complement the style of the vaudevillian scenes.
Costume designer Amanda Ramirez dressed the actors in complete Victorian outfits which include top hats, pith helmets, embroidered vests, double breasted waistcoats with tails, knee-high boots, high button shoes, long lacy skirts, corsets and sausage curled wigs. The bizarre aspects of the costumes include a giant bear head and grotesque masks.
I loved Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness! There is not a dull moment in this stylized comedy. If you like offbeat originality and love to laugh then you will have a great time at this show.