By Austin Kaiser
“Madman” is the story of a confused teenager who receives a copy of Nikolai Gogol’s novel, “Diary of a Madman.” The book inspires him to accept his sexual identity, but makes him a megalomaniac in the process.
At first, Jake is a regular present-day boy, worried about school and the prom. All at once, he believes himself to be a nineteenth-century Russian quill sharpener who understands the language of dogs. He alternates between the book and reality, as reality gets more and more unreal. Ultimately, with the centrifuge spinning fast, he fully enters the world of the book.
There is a fine line between craziness and creativity. I’m fascinated when a person can cleverly solve problems while conversing with figments of their imagination. What are the rules? What does the person see clearly, perhaps more clearly than most, and what do they see in a slanted way? How are they superior thinkers and how do they crumble? This play contains lots of crumbling. The madman, the quill sharpener, talks to himself. He stands at the entrance to an alleyway and people-watches, speculating about what they’re doing and thinking. Jake confronts reality, then takes two steps backwards, turns his head away, and says, “Oh, no. Couldn’t be.”
Why does Jake want to be the madman? Because the madman has confidence. He is optimistic about the future and his possibilities. If somebody insults him, the madman reasons the offending person must be envious of him. Jake is attracted to this survival mechanism.
See this play if you like tight acting and story. This play is constructed like the inside of a microorganism. Every doohickey has a purpose. Jake milks each joke. He knows when to wink at the audience to break the tension, and when to keep the audience on their toes, stuck in the emotional moment. Jake has obviously re-read Gogol’s “Diary of A Madman” backwards and forwards, and has had many epiphanies about it. He also has a degree in Slavic Languages & Literature. In this play, two high-quality narratives twist together like steel cables. It’s a feat for Jake and a treat for us.
See this show if you like Russian literature, coming-of-age stories, comedies, autobiographies, diaries, or love letters written by dogs.
Written and Performed by Jake Austin Robertson
Sept. 23 at 7:30pm, Oct. 14 at 4pm, Oct. 17 at 9pm, Nov. 1 at 9pm
Director: Sara Morgulis
Original Text: Nikolai Gogol
Translation: Constance Garnett
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at: www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.