Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: Fitting In While Sticking Out

We all want to fit in one way or another. Finding that place to do it is the trick. But what if when you find that safe zone, you still feel out of place? Created by performer Gardiner Comfort and director Kel Haney, The Elephant in Every Room I Enter is inspired by Comfort's journey at a Tourette's conference in DC where.
photo by Jenny Anderson
Chronicling Comfort's experience at the Tourette’s Syndrome Association National Conference, Comfort shares what life is like with Tourette's Syndrome and how a week in DC changed his views on himself and life. Living life in New York, Comfort is forced to answer for his tick. From every subway rider offering a lozenge, he experiences a day-to-day routine that is foreign to many of us. When he's asked to attend Tourette’s Syndrome Association National Conference as a representative for his local chapter, Comfort enters a world where he's not alone. Between meeting rising star teen actors, networking with entertainment bigwigs, and meeting children with an abundance of strength, Comfort finds himself in a place of ease and ease. The Elephant in Every Room I Enter goes beyond the standard solo show. Comfort and Haney make it an experience. With a beautifully cohesive design, a stunning element is added to keep the audience engaged. But it also manages to cover up performance flaws. For the most part, the piece is an extended monologue. Comfort does break into slight vocal characters but it's primarily all Comfort. He has great confidence in his demeanor. And at times, it comes off as a tad abrasive. Whether it was over rehearsed or just his stage character, Comfort almost begged for pity by the end, which I'm confident was not the intent. At the base of the story, Comfort felt he stuck out in the real world but felt the same at the conference when he was asked by a girl where his tick was. Personal solo shows are a difficult beast to capture. On one hand, an audience may be filled with loving and familiar faces. But when there are those strangers, you must be able to be congenial. There's no time to get to meet the artist. The story is our way into the world. Thankfully the story Comfort has to share is filled with great potential.
Director Kel Haney went above the call of duty to create an engaging production. Not only did Haney use the entirety of the blank stage, it was gloriously filled. The projection design by Caite Hevner Kemp and Lianne Arnold was nothing short of sensational. The vibrations that Kemp and Arnold used were quite fitting. Even the use of color that was thrown onto the brick gave the 1st Floor Theatre at LaMaMa new life.
Gardiner Comfort has natural jokes in the piece but for outsiders into his story, laughing due to the subject material feels taboo. If Haney and Comfort find a way to invite the audience to laugh, it may give the evening a new experience. The Elephant in Every Room I Enter is on its way to something great, but it needs another polish.