Sometimes the simplest things are the funniest. And sometimes when things go wrong they become even funnier — particularly with a performer who can think on his feet. That’s what happened on Saturday evening with local actor Charlie Clark’s amusing one-man show about the trials and tribulations of creating a one-man show. We meet him in a simple apartment (the set is pure Fringe with wobbly walls, mismatched stray furniture and items that look like props from a high school production — perhaps appropriate since The Charlie Clark Show is presented in the Black Box theater at SCPA), where he’s frustrated by a looming deadline and nothing written — or even a concept developed — for the show he’s proposed for the 2008 Fringe.
(Photo: Mikki Schaffner)
The narrative is simple. His wife calls; she’s been away for the weekend with the kids to give him time to work. He channel surfs. He rings up for a pizza. He calls Brian Isaac Phillips from Cincinnati Shakespeare for inspiration and a phone number for Giles Davies, a CSC actor who’s mastered the art of one-man shows. But he’s not getting anywhere and the Fringe is less than two weeks away. So he decides to take a shower. That’s when things really spiral out of control.
Along the way, he tries and discards — in the most self-referential ways possible — ideas such as having phone conversations (we hear Clark’s voice as his wife and as Phillips, speaking in silly rhymed couplets) and singing a song about writing a show (“What Am I Doing? I Don’t Know”). He videotapes an imaginary conversation with Frankie, a kind of alter ego, and even has a fight with his invisible adversary.
Clark plays every role, using some quick-change artistry and clever staging to pop in and out as a burglar and a pizza delivery guy. All this is humorously done with a good deal of wink-wink to the audience. But on Saturday evening, reality impinged on Clarks’ show when its out-of-control spiraled a bit beyond what he had in mind. In the final moments, some pre-recorded sound failed as Clark was interrogated about a possible crime involving a baseball bat, the delivery guy and a pizza, with or without mushrooms. Clark tried to play along, then gave up (nervously telling the audience, “This all worked on Thursday!”); he had a brief conversation with his stage manager. They tried again, but no luck. So Clark suggested that the stage manager and another crew member read the “good cop/bad cop” lines — pumped his fist, “This is THEATER!” — and carried on.
I wondered if this was planned, but Clark was clearly flummoxed. Nonetheless, it made his epilogue, another very self-aware speech, this time about the line between theater and reality, especially meaningful and hysterically funny. “Always question reality,” he said. “It might not be what you think it is.” Amen to that.
Even without this ad-libbed interpolation, Clark’s show was entertaining. This was a great reminder about why live theater is immediate, spontaneous and worth seeing — and especially good evidence that Charlie Clark is a performer to watch.
– Rick Pender