Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stories for the Wobbly Hearted

I work in the east 50s in midtown Manhattan, which I guess is a pretty cool place for craning-necked tourists, but aside from nearby Rockefeller Center, there’s not much to recommend it when you’re there for thousands of consecutive days. It’s certainly not the type of area where you expect to find a quirky off-Broadway theater, but it turns out 59e59 is just such a place, on 59th St. (duh) between Madison and Park.

Last night, I went there to see a one-man show by Daniel Kitson called Stories for the Wobbly Hearted. Kitson’s a 29-year-old British stand-up comedian who’s also known there for his theatrical work, and this is his U.S. debut.

He looks a bit like several musicians, notably Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy), Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), and Doug Martsch (Built to Spill), which is funny in and of itself but also because it makes you realize just how much a certain group of lumberjack-like indie rockers resemble each other. And in fact, when you enter the theater -- which is tiny, and sits about 50 people -- Iron & Wine songs are playing. I love that music, but its presence in the space, which was decorated to resemble a modest sitting room, led me to believe I was in for a very, very precious evening -- and the person who accompanied me felt it was just that in the end, perhaps minus one “very,” and despite enjoying it. I didn’t have quite the same reaction. Kitson’s themes are a bit on the overly delicate side, but his material is very carefully, even lovingly written and his delivery is a manic, headlong rush to the finish line.

The set-up couldn’t be more basic. Kitson sits in a leather chair, surrounded by lamps and televisions. Over the course of about an hour, he tells five stories that deal, in one way or another, with human loneliness and our attempts to find connection with other people. The first concerns a man who decides to watch exactly five minutes of each of his hundreds of cable channels in order, and the last -- probably the best -- describes an ecstatically happy couple who met at a nightclub and continue to frequent it, despite the fact that they each, unbeknownst to the other, despise it. Though the happiness of that final couple was an anomaly in the show, I commented afterwards that I wanted the overall effect to be a bit more depressing than it was, but I’m a freak.

There were several memorable, aphoristic lines, though I don't actually remember as many as I'd like because of Kitson’s rapid-fire speech. They were nice while they hung in the air, though.

All in all, I would definitely recommend catching this. Trouble is, it’s only up through Wednesday. So go get ‘em...

(Thanks to my friend Eugene for pointing me to it.)


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