Two solo performances at the Fringe


By Davida Singer

With all the bubbling Fringe frenzy, and a daunting number of shows to imbibe, it’s refreshing to catch a couple of sleeper solo performances on the list.

Michael Creighton is an actor/writer who likes his comedy laced with a “dark tinge”. Creighton’s show, “The Hermitage of an Exiled Chain Smoker”, co-authored by fellow Emerson graduate, Liz Blocker, is based on a monologue Blocker wrote for him last year about a chain smoker who has difficulty leaving his apartment.

“When the smoking ban happened in New York City, we thought it was perfect to expand the piece,” Creighton says, “and enable this character -Caleb- to lock himself into his home, and never leave. He believes he’s got a mission to fight for the freedom of all smokers, but he’s really a lonely, neurotic asthmatic, who has serious trouble communicating with people.”

Running an hour and fifteen, “The Hermitage of an Exiled Chain Smoker” is a biting, roller coaster romp, whose set employs 80 cigarette packs meticulously arranged on the mantelpiece, and a door with 3 dead bolt locks and a peep hole.

“It’s poking fun at Mayor Bloomberg and the ban,” notes Creighton, “but also at the people who are so worked up about it. The feel of the piece is definitely fast paced and manic. He’s got massive mood swings, but I hope the audience is moved by this crazy, crazy character, and gets a little insight into the mind of the socially anxious. I’d love for them to see what’s underneath everything here-the social anxiety we all have inside right now. After all, there are reasons why people smoke-like to calm down, especially at this moment in time.”

So is Creighton a smoker himself?

“Yes, it’s a dirty, dirty habit, but this is a little autobiographical. I don’t like the ban. It’s hard to walk out of bars just to smoke, though I do understand the other side. But hey, it’s a bar. The difference here is that for me it’s more an inconvenience, while Caleb finds this a personal attack. We use the show’s physicality to really put that across.”

Physical comedy is also the springboard for Hilary Chaplain’s piece, “A Life In Her Day”. An actor and professional clown, who moved from intensive mime study in Paris and the “popular theater movement” of the ‘70’s, to numerous solo and groups performances in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Chaplain describes her unconventional work as “new vaudeville and feminist.”

“I choose to play strong women who are going after something, and they like themselves,” she explains. “I’m really tired of self-deprecating humor. Instead, I think there’s so much humor to be found in the human condition and who we are in the world.

“A Life In Her Day”, directed by Patricia Buckley, is about a character who lives in a world she creates, and how she strives to maintain dignity and find pleasure in life. I’m also playing with the idea that little girls still get-of a happily ever after. This doesn’t happen here, but she does become whole by creating what she needs for herself.”

Chaplain creates an original ambiance with her special mix of clowning, props, a vertical bed, a red fat suit, and a dummy. It’s an intimate look into a day that turns nightmare, runs wild, and is finally resolved. There’s a bit of spoken text in the show, and a healthy dose of audience interaction.

“They really matter to the performance, so this works best if the room is full,” Chaplain relates. “A good clown makes mountains out of molehills, and this character takes everything so seriously. I’d like people to laugh ‘til they cry, and at the same time, to think about how we dwell on the silliest little things. It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves. We just don’t get to do that enough these days, and when we laugh, we heal.”

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