East 10th Street ****

East 10th Street: Self Portrait with Empty House is a hypnotic self-penned monologue that brings a New York apartment building to theatrical life.  Created by Edgar Oliver, it is a self-aware piece that allows him to both tell about and embody the lives of people he once lived with and near.

In truth, the stories are not all that impressive.  Most are similar to other eccentric neighbourhood tales one hears all the time, be it in published stories, scripts or as anecdotes at a party.  And yet, Oliver is such an excellent performer and has such a melodic voice that it is hard not to be transfixed by his tale.  Whether he speaks about his landlord, tenants or the building itself, there is such affection and passion for what is being talked about that it is hard not to be moved, mostly to laughter.

As a production, East 10th Street is quite polished.  David Zeffren’s lighting is quite brave, for it is nothing more than white light that is projected up from the stage ground.  The result is that it gives Oliver a bit of an uneasy look, and it creates two large shadows that loom above him and greatly exaggerates his theatrical style of performance.  And Randall Sharp’s direction manages to make the production feel well balanced.

Oliver is quite a good performer.  He is very animated and has an expressive face that conveys much.  He also uses a microphone throughout the performance.  Though it may have been a bit much in such a small space as Traverse 2, in practice it actually works quite well, making the voice echo just a bit and allowing Oliver’s melodic voice to have a bit more resonance.  It is a nice touch that greatly adds to the performance without being too obvious.

East 10th Street is a good script and a very good production but has an excellent performance.  It is sometimes touching, many times funny and constantly interesting.

Playing on Traverse 2 from August 6-16.  For correct dates and times, please look up the Traverse’s website or brochure.

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