“There’s something I have to tell you… You know how people have different sides to their personality… Sometimes, a, uh… a person will have to actually lead a different life… (pause, sighs)…That was me at 18 doing my impression of Michael Keaton doing his impression of Bruce Wayne in the movie Batman, and I’ve been doing that, in some form or another, for approximately 27 years.”
To author/actor Jason O’Connell, Batman was the ne plus ultra of champions, the unheralded philosopher of our times, his unwitting guru, a father replacement. Unlike super heroes, the character has no powers. Batman, he proffers, could be anybody, albeit with millions of dollars. First an outsider because of his obsession, O’Connell later found attractive women ?! who appreciated the caped crusader, naming each of his girlfriends for a character in successive films.
O’Connell is a good storyteller and an adroit writer. He looks us right in the eyes generating connection and sympathy. With this first one man show, the artist deftly intertwines tales about his career, accounts of relationships, and life lessons with specific views on the Batman franchise. To varying degrees of success, he conjures Michael Keaton (really well), George Clooney, Christian Bale, Jack Nicholson (mostly facial), Danny DeVito (physically), Arnold Schwarzenegger (ably)…as life coaches. (Only one unintelligible character is unidentifiable and might easily be expunged.) Casting, script attitudes, and directors are wryly critiqued.
It helps to have some familiarity with the films and actors, but this is not an analysis. With candor, sweetly self denigrating humor, and cultural perception, O’Connell is telling us the story of one boy’s growth and coping mechanisms in contemporary times and pop context.
Integration of Shakespeare (obsession with another man in tights) through theatrical training draws clever parallels. An utterly charming anecdote features O’Connell’s observing a boy’s ballet class with such appreciation of unexpected beauty, he begins to recite What a piece of work is man…. Talk of a beloved grandfather is also affecting.
My single caveat is O’Connell’s schizophrenic, multi-impersonation denouement, one character loudly arguing with the other in an unnecessary cacophony of people occupying his head. It’s nigh impossible to get that many distinct portrayals right with rapidity, an onslaught, and unnecessary to the show. The quiet ending will work fine omitting this.
Director Tony Speciale has done a seamless job. Gestures work. Pacing is pitch perfect.
Alas, no one’s been given credit for sound which adds immeasurably.
A unique and entertaining evening.
Dork: a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair…Merriam Webster Dictionary
Photos by Ben Strothmann
Abingdon Theatre Company presents
The Dork Knight
Written and Performed by Jerry O’Connell
Directed by Tony Speciale
Through January 29, 2017
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
312 West 36th Street