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Freaks and geeks

Growing up is hard to do in these monologues and musicals

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2008:10:25 03:35:51

Any Title That Works

Patrons Room
8:40 p.m. Friday, 3:40 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday

I Love You (We’re F*#ked

Brown Venue
10:45 p.m. Wednesday, 11:55 p.m. Friday, 4:30 p.m. Saturday

13, the Musical

Silver Venue
7:40 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Suckers, a Freaky Little Musical

Green Venue
6 p.m. Thursday, 9:50 p.m. Friday, 1:15 p.m. Saturday, 2:55 p.m. Sunday

Paul Strickland has a way with words. He also has a way with sentences and whole paragraphs. This is all to the good, since Strickland is a monologist and well-rounded words are the only tools he uses to produce a kaleidoscope of rich and layered feelings in his one-man production, Any Title That Works.

As well, Strickland has a way with a punchline: Each time he weaves a thoughtful, sometimes even sad, story about his childhood or recounts a painful moment of self-awareness that seared his memory, he leavens the nostalgia with a humorous remark or knowing bon mot.

Strickland’s modus operandi is to begin each segment of his hourlong show by reading a letter written to himself at a particular age, pointing out just how much he has yet to learn. Then he takes us back in time. At 5 years old, we hear about his continuing quest for the perfect Halloween costume. At 15, we learn about his beloved grandfather’s death. Then it’s on to his 20s and his journey to find a giant Superman statue in the town of Metropolis, Ill. (Yes, you read that right.)

What makes Any Title That Works particularly appealing is Strickland’s ability to not take himself too seriously even when his tales are mining profound and deep emotions. He has discovered the balance between philosophy, self-revelation and comedy, all wrapped in a poetic lyricism that touches the heart and excites the imagination. Paul Strickland does have a way with words.

Kevin J. Thornton is also a monologist of sorts, although his one-man show, I Love You (We’re F*#ked), throws more standup comedy and music into the mix. Thornton’s presentation is ribald, sardonic and hilariously funny as he takes his audience on a journey through childhood traumas, adolescent crushes and adult romances. Along the way, he tosses in wry observations about sex, love and the way life has a tendency to teach lessons that one does not necessarily wish to learn.

Like Strickland, Thornton possesses a likable self-awareness that lets us know that what he’s telling us is often something that he knows we know too, but just don’t have the moxie to articulate. And we know that he knows we know because of the sly looks, smartass inflections and pointed gestures that infuse his delivery. This guy plays his audience as neatly as he plays his guitar.

But where Strickland is gentle, tending to throw his haymakers after he has you looking the other way, Thornton is blunt and brutal, jabbing you right in the eye after he has just landed a shot to the gut. Together, these two performers offer the yin and yang of one-man performance. I highly recommend both for a complete and satisfying Fringe experience.

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