Evan O'Television In Double Negatives
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
August 19, 2010
A one-person show is generally a hit-or-miss proposition, as all of the theatrical eggs are literally in one basket—i.e., that one person. And when that person is a gifted comedian/performer like Evan O'Television (whose real name is withheld, I presume, to protect the Irish), the happy accident is that the audience is in for a gut-busting good time. Double Negatives is not so much a theatrical piece as a series of entertaining sketches artfully woven together, but the end is more than justified by the means because I was wiping away tears of laughter during the hilariously uncomfortable conclusion.
Double Negatives opens with Evan's storytelling cousin Seamus, who in a thick-accented Irish brogue describes the O'Television family dynamics and his homebound mother's opinion on the world. (Her accidental stumbling upon the 9/11 "Truthers" and their "orgy" is an unexpected highlight.) This sets us up nicely to be introduced to Evan, who wheels out a TV monitor with a recorded version of himself on a green screen. Without naming names, I've seen this conceit before of a one-man show using technology to interact with another version of "himself' and it's no small feat to get the comic timing down with a recording—one small misstep and the show is probably over. Thankfully, Evan's experiences as a real-life television producer serve him well as there were no glitches of any kind. His format also works—he's an awkward "celebrity interviewer" who appears to be operating out of his basement, in a style of comedy very reminiscent of the internet series "Between Two Ferns with Zack Galafinakis."
The real treat is how self-effacing and sharp-witted Evan is. Though making his FringeNYC and New York premiere, he shows the professionalism of a show-biz veteran as he pokes fun at his own milieu, his vaudeville ventriloquism, his mocking of standard "puppeteer" crutches and cliches—anything you might try to pick on as overdone, Evan addresses it. He also gleefully talks about sketches that work and sketches that don't—this is a comedy show (a crisp one-hour run time), and not high art, even though there are some high-concept ideas floating about. Without giving too much away, his failed interview with a former presidential candidate is an "awkward comedy" highlight. This leads to a complete mental breakdown by Evan and it takes both Evan's video counterpart and some completely insane audience participation before the evening reaches its climax. (If you're shy, don't sit in the third row—I'm speaking from personal experience here.)
According to the press release, Evan O'Television has played in a variety of venues throughout the northeast, including comedy clubs and art events as well as theatres. I can see how this act could play very well to a variety of audiences—it's an easily accessible piece and I'm sure it's an absolute gas at a sketch comedy festival or the like. Double Negatives is not a piece for a theatre snob, but it is uproariously funny at times and definitely worth a visit to HERE's Dorothy Williams Theater before time runs out at the Fringe.