Friday, July 27, 2012

KC Fringe "Melancholy Monologues" review by Guildenstern

Digging into depression
Rating: 4

The Melancholy Monologues
KC Fringe Festival

Yes, it's a play about depression. Let's just deal with that first. Fringe offers one of the few forums where an artist can step out before an audience and confront deeply personal and normally taboo subjects. This year alone we've got solo shows about Reye's syndrome, injustice, death, homosexual Mormons, transgenders, and depression. Some might call it therapy in the spotlight, but one of the great things about theatre is it allows us to gain empathy for people we might ignore or push aside in real life.

Audiences aren't being drawn to "The Melancholy Monologues," which I can understand, but this one-man play is engaging, brief, and serious-minded without being bombastic, or even much of a downer. If anything you can applaud Ken Buch for writing and performing this play - and act that by itself stands as a blow against depression. There is even a dose of humor to keep things from turning too dour.

The Thursday audience was sparse, but it seems like the smaller the audience, the less they can be ignored. It felt like Buch was simply having a conversation and waiting for feedback, or at least acknowledgement, from those present. You really have the feeling you've stepped into someone's living room. The cluttered set, which Buch spends most of his time cleaning up, is an excellent distraction from the confrontational approach, making it less threatening. Details in the set, mostly book titles, reinforced the story and gave insight into Buch as a person - a window into his state of mind.

If anything I think the play could dig deeper - not necessarily into depression, but into Buch's personal life. Work is mentioned, but what kind of work is never discussed. His family remains nameless, faceless entities. The most affecting moment of the play is when he discovers a drawing by his child, and remembers a day at the playground. It's those real details that bring the play to life, and make the curse of depression even more dreadful, and his life all the more valuable.

A little more humor as a contrast wouldn't hurt either.

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