nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 29, 2008
If you want to know what is really going on in a society, who should you ask? The politicians? I don't think so. They're too disconnected. The Everyman on the street? No, they're generally more concerned with their own problems. No, I think (and so does writer/performer David Tyson) that you have to ask those who think in terms of satire—the jesters or comedians of a society—in order to get to the bottom of things.
Tyson prepares us for the evening by causally talking to us about his premise—what if we travel back in time and satirize the present from the perspective of a medieval jester? He tells us that the evening will be made up of stories and that he, with the help of a variety of masks, will play all the characters.
The first story has to do with consumerism. We are introduced to the Grim Reaper, who happily explains some of the wonderful ways in which we slowly kill ourselves. Segments of the script are written in verse and one such piece is about our aversion to homeless people. This piece is somewhat poignant and very well spoken. I also really enjoyed the charisma of a French character Tyson portrays who discusses the different types of lies and their inevitable consequences.
For the next story Tyson needs a little help from us so he pulls a few audience members on stage and assigns them roles. One is a pretty girl cast as the damsel in distress and the other is a man cast as the enemy he must vanquish. Tyson uses the audience quite a bit, having us repeat after him and he does some call and response. This piece is about the futility of war and he draws parallels to the Iraq War.
Tyson's mask construction is quite beautiful. They are painted dark brown and burnt sienna, giving them a leathery look. Most have a classical commedia dell'arte appearance such as the big nosed Pantalone, and Tyson animates them all very skillfully. His characters are very distinct and he has a charming quality to his style, but there is nothing that is particularly exceptional about this satire. It is all so very tame. Ironically, at the top of the show Tyson introduces himself to us and invites us to talk to him, stating "this isn't TV, you can talk to me." But his material seems to me to be made for TV. His jokes are funny but really only mildly so. I chuckled on several occasions but there were no belly laughs.
In the end, there is no moment of revelation—no "ah ha" moment where you see the forest for the trees. Tyson certainly has charm, but his satire is toothless. His premise is really quite interesting but it doesn't live up to its potential.