By Mikey Miller
New York has its very own Charlie Chaplin! In the beautiful 99‑seat off‑off‑Broadway Kraine Theater (only one seat shy of qualifying as off‑Broadway), the stage is absolutely barren, except for a few revolving doors and a curtain upstage, separating the audience from the performer.
All of a sudden, a man wearing a hat and an overcoat emerges. He carries a coat rack with precisely one hanger. These are his only props. After a bit of predictable, yet still enjoyable, physical comedy, he reveals his pack of chalk. He pretends these sticks of chalk are cigarettes. He then draws a crude outline of a floor and a wall, and suddenly we are in a room. Objects recognizable as a window, a light switch, and a table are drawn, and we soon recognize that we are in the man’s living room.
Suddenly there is a knock at the door, and the man realizes he has no door, which he needs to create to let in the invisible person, after whom he’s obviously been pining. He soon turns his living area into a beacon of romance that would make anybody swoon. But, as is often the case in silent physical comedy, his efforts are less than successful. Hilarity continues to ensue, and finally, at the close of forty‑five joyous minutes, the man finds solace in sharing one of the simple joys in life ‑ an invisible butterfly, which is very much alive and thriving ‑ with an eager audience.
“Chalk” is a solo show created and performed by Alex Curtis, who has taken his clowning to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the New York Clown Theatre Festival, and the Gotham Storytelling Festival. From the moment he steps onstage (or rather, from the moment we see his hands, the first part of his body to make an entrance), Mr. Curtis immerses us in the world of this man he’s created. Each limb, facial feature, and everything in between embodies the spirit of this effervescent clown.
Mr. Curtis is an absolute delight to watch, and even though he stays silent, his energy is so thoroughly infectious that it almost feels like he sings. Needless to say, Mr. Curtis has mastered the art of being a silent theatrical star.
Technically, the lighting and sound cues are so perfectly timed with Mr. Curtis’s onstage action that I wondered whether there was a human in the booth at all, controlling these elements.
Ultimately, Mr. Curtis’s show is about exploring the ups and downs, but mostly the little pleasures, of life, especially those that can be created by a little piece of chalk.
Created and Performed by Alex Curtis
Directed by Caitlin Ryan O’Connell
Photo: courtesy of the production
November 9 and 23, and December 14 at 2:30 PM
Fringe BYOV 2019
85 East Fourth Street
New York City
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MIKEY MILLER is an actor, writer, and tutor based in Jersey City, NJ. He received his BA in English with a minor in theatre arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Since then, Mikey has acted in off-Broadway and regional productions and worked as a freelance writer for publications such as StageAgent and ShowTickets.