nytheatre.com review by Scott Mendelsohn
Kirk Lynn’s Pale Idiot follows the well-worn trail blazed
by the early absurdists; the show will offer few surprises to
anyone familiar with Beckett, Ionesco, Anouilh, or Durrenmatt.
The play is, however, well-executed, and forms that once shocked
audiences by questioning authority now offer familiar pleasures.
The writing of the ending is a bit unsatisfying. But two days
after the blackout, I found a good deal of truth and comfort in
this satire that shows the outrageous lengths to which
communities will go in the name of "public safety."
August 15, 2003
An ambiguous, authoritarian "Health Inspector" (Ehren Christian) comes to town to rid the community of its idiot. One by one, he submits each townsperson to an "idiot test": witty rhetorical exchanges designed to entrap its subject into admitting his or her own idiocy. The exchanges are never less than engaging, and except for occasional shouting, director Laramie Dennis has harmonized the performances nicely so that they are always serving the play. She receives sensible, effective design work from J.W. Larkin (sets), Maggie Dick (costumes), and Jerry Browning (Lighting Consultant)
Shawn Fagan, as the Altar Boy, is a gifted physical comedian. His entrance with a stack of books is both funny and truthful as it embodies his character’s desperate need for a rigid answer. Travis York as the Mayor’s Assistant provides an excellent foil. As Mother’s Maid, Lisa Loutit has a tendency to indicate the comedy rather than allowing it to emerge from the truth of the scene, and Ehren Christian’s quirks as the Health Inspector play more like ideas than real human tics. But in their main scene together, both Christian and Michael Braun as the Blacksmith’s Apprentice dropped any level of pretense—the comedy of this scene was deeply felt by the actors and by the audience.
Between each of these exchanges, the Idiot (Roxy Becker) addresses the audience in poetic parables delivered in an alienated third person. They are honest meditations on the capacity for comfort and generosity in a watch-your-back world. And when she sings the beautiful "Idiot Song," (composed and accompanied on guitar by Tim Robert), she rocks out with a painful, androgynous awkwardness. Her vulnerable, unsentimental performance provides the soul that raises the piece above any absurdist cleverness. Becker embodies the central loneliness that we all work so hard to keep at bay.