William And The Tradesmen
nytheatre.com review by Jane Titus
August 14, 2010
I just saw such a good show at FringeNYC! Isn't that what we all want to say as we go to see all these lovely shows in the festival? Well, I can say with authority that William and the Tradesmen is just such a show. It is a gem that I hope many will discover and enjoy.
William and the Tradesmen is a one-man autobiographical piece about an artist's search for a place in the world of rock music. OK—sounds like so many other one-man shows, doesn't it? What sets this one apart is Eli James's willingness to take a truly candid, humorous look at himself and his journey through life. As an artist, I look for truth to be spoken on the stage. And we have lots of that in this show. It is full of stories and vignettes that are so fantastic that they could only be based in real life. No one could make up some of the idiosyncratic situations that William experiences. This specificity actually takes the show to a more universal level. It is one of the ironies of art that so many times if the artist is specific and personal, the work becomes accessible to all. I don't know how that works, I am just happy when it happens.
Even though there is only Eli James on stage, I felt as though by the end of the performance I had actually gotten to know four different characters. William is guided, plagued, bullied, and defended by his three muses—Morrissey, Paul Weller, and Joe Strummer—as they choose to channel themselves through William. James's work in each of these characters is very well wrought. As he hits the life of each one of these disparate fellows, it becomes so fun to see what each of his muses will have to say about the insane situations William finds himself in. Bravo, Mr. James, for your insightful, particular, and precise work shifting between all of your characters. I found myself breaking out my Joe Strummer music on the way home and reacquainting myself with him. I will never quite see Morrissey or Paul Weller in the same light, either. I feel like I got to know them a little bit better through this piece.
The venue, The Club at La MaMa, is great for the show—a combination club/theatre that is highly suitable. The set is all it needs to be as are the lighting and sound design, which are by Bill Stonehouse. The direction by Francesco Campari keeps the piece crisp and specific which is so very much needed in a one-person show.
If you are an artist and wonder why it is you have chosen the crazy path you are on, if you care about some artist who is out there risking it all, or if you have ever wondered why it is that artists lead the lives they do, run, don't walk, to see this show.