Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
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Written by John Kolvenbach and delivered with consummate nuance by performer Jim Ortlieb, STAND UP IF YOU’RE HERE TONIGHT is a quirky hour-long exchange between a performer and his audience, geared to anyone who’s ever coped with self-doubt or even the tiniest fraction of existential angst. If this makes you apprehensive (“way too heavy for me” or “I hate interactive theater”) be assured this is one droll, insightful show.
Ortlieb’s chronicler — he never identifies himself by name— is an odd fellow; he resembles one of those rumpled educators you may have encountered in college (or perhaps grade or high school), and continually shifts from being with you in the here and now to an inaccessible mindscape in his brain. But that’s apropos, since one of the main themes of the play is how so many of us struggle to bridge the divide between the demands of our shared reality and our secret insecure selves.
The aim of his discourse is to make us aware of this tension and lend us the tools to overcome it, but — if that’s not possible — to at least make us privy to the unspoken, unconscious yearnings we all carry within.
Participating involves a certain amount of direction-taking on the part of the audience — nothing too strenuous, just some clapping, sighing, standing and vocalization on cue, as the chronicler offers probing hints about our secret anxieties and claims he can help us overcome them. All this works because Kolvenbach’s artful ironic text, grounded in everyday image, is exquisitely matched by Ortlieb’s actorly skill.
While the plot is minimal, there is a poignant fragment of story involving a mother and her young son, and in the latter part of the piece Ortlieb undertakes to play the child, with thespian Rosie Narasaki appearing as his mom.
Danny Cistone’s set is a tangled clutter of stacked wooden chairs, overturned lamps and assorted paraphernalia that aptly suggests the recesses of a distracted mind. Derrick McDaniel’s lighting complements it well.
STAND UP IF YOU’RE HERE TONIGHT is presented at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039
Performances are Thursdays; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through September 26
Tickets are $20 for all performances.
Free, ample street and lot parking. Parking map: http://bit.ly/OsBCRg.
STAND UP IF YOU’RE HERE TONIGHT are all fully vaccinated performances and will require proof of vaccination at the door. Seating will be socially distanced and limited.
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