Stories for the Wobbly Hearted
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
June 14, 2006
Daniel Kitson, the writer and performer of Stories for the Wobbly-Hearted, brings you into his makeshift living room—consisting of one cozy-looking arm chair, a few dim lamps, and from my count 6 TVs—and rattles off absurd, comedic, poignant tales at breakneck speed for approximately one hour.
The only, trouble, and I really mean only, with Kitson's performance, is that the rapid-fire delivery makes it hard to catch everything he's saying. My companion admitted to not being able to keep up for much of it, and I too found myself wondering at the start how long I could stay with this… and then toward the end, after getting a little more used to it and catching so many wonderful observations coming out of Kitson's mouth, wishing it would continue.
The main reason Kitson should slow down is because his text and the overall ambience are so good. With lines like "and it suddenly occurred to him that life must be happening someplace else," "there are just too many ways to forgive someone you love," and the musical-sounding alliteration "blathering bonanza of bonhomie," (love that) Kitson's writing bears closer listening than this get-it-all-out-in-an-hour delivery allows. I found myself going "ooh, that was a good one" every few minutes and wish I could have savored it more.
Kitson tells us of Ben, who has "clutched hold of misanthropy in much the way that a drowning man would clutch a life buoy"; Poppy, who tries hard not to meet people, and receives an intriguing letter and a mix tape from a stranger; Morris, who plays guitar in the subway station (or "tube," here) and whose father believes his music could change the world; and finally, James and Miriam, a couple kept together by their pretended love of clubbing, which they both secretly detest.
There's a real warmth to the entire arrangement and feel of this piece: It's almost as though our storyteller is making this stuff up on the spot, so eager is his desire to say what he wants to say (the stories, by the way, are interspersed with music and visual clips on the TV, a very nice touch which gives the audience a chance to take in what they've just heard). Kitson's stories are filled with sincerity and an underlying bittersweet tenderness, and at the same time, are rather bizarre and laughter-provoking.
The theme of the show from the get-go is loneliness, albeit clearly seen from a humorous angle. Yet while the concept of isolation and misunderstanding between human beings does exist throughout, there is absolutely no pessimism or negativity here. This is a man sitting in an armchair with no tricks up his sleeve, just a desire to keep us amused and interested. One leaves feeling that a performer has just opened his heart to let us know what's going on inside his mind, and at the same time, really wants us to sit back and have a good time. Which we certainly do.