By Marcina Zaccaria
At McHale’s, a bartender asks you to know his friends, understand their problems, and hear some awesome blues music from the musician on the perch, Shelly. That’s three-time Grammy nominee Michelle Shocked on the microphone at the top of the steps, performing “Anchorage” in a wig, in character for the length of this show.
Performance art is reinvented over a cheese-bacon burger or beer. The largely middle-aged players appeal to the audience in a confessional manner. The lead actor explains that he is bottled up. He asks the crowd, “What do you do, after your relationship has failed?”
We meet a Hazel, waiting for her former partner, Zach. He owes her money, and while texting on her cell phone, she asks the patrons how to proceed. Should she “ghost him” or delete the emails? Another friend, Jerry, tries to get advice on his lost love. He did get to see the former flame and their child recently. Now, he’s alone, and waiting.
Actors Andy Hilbrands, Christian Kelty, Jay Malsky, Mary-Alice McNab, Sarah Nowak, Adrian Sexton, and Adam Sullivan really do their best to elicit sympathy. Topics of the day include Bro code. Who’s chilling out with whom (in their own igloos) shouldn’t create everlasting despair. The talk continues: should you wait six months after a bad break-up? With phrases coming from any side of the bar from almost anyone, it’s not really acting, but somewhere between talk therapy and faith healing.
The bar with striking colored windows and beautiful wooded portals never really heats up. In fact, the improvisation has a loose format; it’s is so light, you almost don’t know it’s happening. There are no strong gestures until Shelly peels out through the lean straight away the players cross through. With her Dallas Texas roots revealed (her wig removed) protest never sounded so forceful. Her stomp-through includes a diatribe against the government, looking like really cool performance art.
The evening culminates with a light dedication. At Josephine’s, a bartender found a place to bare his soul. To honor the experience, Overheard at Joe’s was created. Christian Kelty, the Director who dreamed up the incarnation (fortified by Producers David Carpenter and John Arthur Pinckard at Tilted Windmills Theatricals) thanks the audience for listening. But, he means it. Really.
Photos: Hunter Canning
Overheard at Joe’sis running at McHale’s Bar and Grill, 251 West 51st Street. The performance schedule is Sunday at 7:00 PM, Monday at 8:00 PM, and Tuesday at 8:00 PM. Tickets, which are on sale at http://www.overheardatjoes.com, and at the door one hour prior to each performance, start at $44.00.