by: JK Clarke
One person shows are a lot like long-format stand-up comedy routines. Except that they’re not always performed by comedians and they’re usually only funny in parts. But the most important commonality they should have is a comic’s sense of timing. That’s what can turn a very ordinary story into a delightful tale. Which is exactly what writer and performer Sonya Kelly does in the über-titled “I Can See Clearly Now (The Wheelchair in my Face)”, now playing at Irish Rep’s 59E59 Theaters as part of the Origin’s 1st Irish 2013 Theater Festival.
Sonya’s tale is of her seven-year-old self, growing up in the 1970s in Ireland, and, unbeknownst to everyone around her, so incredibly nearsighted she may as well be blind. That is, until a medical examiner at school realizes her condition during routine health exam and ensures her family corrects her vision with fishbowl-esque lenses. It’s a simple, touching story, and Kelly pokes enormous fun at her younger self, as well as her present self, delighting in the telling of it. And that delight is infectious, to the point where the audience is relieved and shares her joy at finally being able to see.
Along with extremely adept story writing and telling, Kelly adds skillful physical comedy into the mix. Her control over her eye movements rivals some great actors and comics with remarkably expressive eyes (Marty Feldman and Steve Buscemi come to mind) and she uses them to delightful effect. Additionally, she’s able to inhabit the body and person of her seven-year-old self and seem like a child, not going over-the-top with it, as often happens with actors playing children.
With some simple props and a basic folding table, Kelly manages to take us back into her childhood, into her pain and joy, and allows us to experience the humor and sorrows of her life. And we’re glad she let us see, too.
I Can See Clearly Now (The Wheelchair In My Face). Directed by Gina Moxley. Through September 29 as part of the Origins First Irish Festival. Tickets and Showtimes: www.1stIrish.org
*Photo: M. Dowling