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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
HUMOR ABUSE
at MTC, 2nd Stage

AND THEN THERE ARE THE SANDBAGS
By DAVID LEFKOWITZ

  Lorenzo Pisoni in Humor Abuse

From cops to construction workers, people have different reasons for putting themselves in harm's way for the sake of glory or a paycheck. Ask Natasha Richardson why she went skiing without a helmet, and she probably couldn't tell you. Ask Lorenzo Pisoni why he does his one-man show, Humor Abuse, without body armor, and his reply would be simple: his dad.

Pisoni is the offspring of Larry Pisoni, co-founder and former ringmaster of the Pickle Family Circus. A clown act that incorporated dangerous stunts into its performances, the Pickles began as a 1960s hippie-style collective, sharing profits equally and traveling from town to town - with little home-schooled Lorenzo in tow. For papa Pickle, having his son master a double-take or squeeze into a trunk full of balloons ("I hate balloons," Lorenzo notes) took precedence over the rigors of formal education. Often as irascible offstage as he was goofy on, Larry saw his Circus depleted by money troubles and his marriage crumble - quite a growing up for Pickle the younger, whose relationship with his still-performing dad provides the thru-line for his own shticks and stunts.

The second stage of Manhattan Theater Club would seem almost too intimate a venue for slapstick, but its no-frills, three-sided set up manages to bring us closer to Lorenzo's world, heightening our appreciation of his juggling skills and toned physique without sacrificing laughs at his pratfalls and stumbles up ladder rungs.

That ladder falls, by the way, in a manner that I imagine would be scary even if, unlike me, you knew it was coming. And then there are the sandbags. At least a dozen of them. Hung from the ceiling in precarious places. Let's just say that whatever premium MTC is paying to Dewitt Stern Group, Inc. is probably worth it.

At just over an hour, Humor Abuse is the rare show that runs exactly as long as it should and not a minute longer (take heed, God of Carnage, Exit the King, Marvelous Wonderettes, et al.). If anything's lacking, it's more material about Peggy Snider, Lorenzo's mother. Since the play is so personal and often concentrates on family life, it's lopsided of Pisoni and co-creator Erica Schmidt to offer such a strong sense of dad and such a vague sense of mom - especially since she, too, performed in the circus, is now an active photographer and ceramic sculptor, and lets her daughter and 11-year-old granddaughter both carry on in the circus tradition. One suspects that for all the bad times, these Pickles are never more than half-sour.

 


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