One-person shows are best served when the director is part of the creative writing team. Solo efforts can reap the benefits that come from a second independent eye as a way of ensuring that the audience remains engaged and entertained. I’ve often said that only Olivier could direct himself. The current production on the boards of LA’s Mark Taper Forum is a clever and highly imaginative little gem of a show dealing with the world of clowns entitled “Humor Abuse”. It is brilliantly performed by professional clown and actor Lorenzo Pisoni and is winningly directed by co-creator Erica Schmidt.
Pisoni, literally entered the world of clowning at the tender age of two performing during intermissions in the family business The Pickle Family Circus of San Francisco. He became a “contracted” clown at the age of six (without the benefit of an agent). His father, professional clown, Larry Pisoni raised and trained Lorenzo in all the arts of professional clowning: mime, acrobatics, juggling, comic timing, until his parents separated. Lorenzo learned well the lessons of being a committed and dedicated professional. He continued his formal education, attending High School in the City by the Bay; ultimately graduating from Vassar – but always returning to his performing “clown roots” just to keep his skills set fresh – and then set out to expand his theatrical ambitions.
The thrust of the production revolves around the father-son relationship. The story/memoir, if you will, is a passionate paean by the handsome and articulate Lorenzo, to not only his father’s artistry, as well as his own, but to the ancient performing art form known as clowning. The audience is treated to a linear story narrative whose threads are cleverly linked with historical photos of Lorenzo and his family. It’s a nice touch by writer/director Schmidt who bundles and sews those threads into a loving tapestry of a life performed in the circus.
However, there is more to the 90-minute tour de force performance of Lorenzo Pisoni in his co-created show with director Erica Schmidt. For starters, he is also a very fine actor in every sense of the word. His stage presence although commanding, is both warm and winning, and his diction and articulation should become mandatory listening for every young actor entering the business. His crisp, clear, annunciation of the textural parts of his show is a delight to listen to as well as to behold. Pisoni has acquired quite a resume as an actor over the years. He’s performed on stage, on screen, and TV winning such acting honors as Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, and Outer Circle Awards in the process.
The Taper audience realizes right from the opening moments that they are in for a special and wonderful evening of humor and imaginative artistry when Pisoni, armed with a staple gun successfully “tames” a wandering spotlight by stapling the “light” to the stage floor – thus keeping the spotlight on himself. Its classic Commedia Dell’ Arte clown situation comedy; complete with pratfalls and varying degrees of physical humor always directed at himself and his situations which poignantly resonates with his audience.
“Humor Abuse” is the type of show one rarely sees these days. It’s a welcome tonic for drama-saturated, TV procedural audiences, or those hooked on alien planet creatures or vampires. And, oh yeah, you can throw in car chases and explosion as well. If laughter is your tonic of choice, then you can’t do any better than an evening of “Humor Abuse” at The Mark Taper Forum. The production runs through November 3rd.