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A CurtainUp Review

Uncle Jacques' Symphony
By Amanda Cooper

I see God as this brother, who wrote this terrific tune called life. A never-ending, always evolving, evocative piece of complex music that nobody else could play but him.---Uncle Jacques
Dominic Hoffman
A talented writer and performer do not a show make. Dominic Hoffman, solo performer of Uncle Jacques' Symphony has a silky voice and easy onstage demeanor, slyly portraying an array of characters. Dominic Hoffman, solo writer of this same show, culls together sentences that slide from slang into discovery, coloring character after character. But to say that every well-written creature should be on stage is like saying that every touching poem should be set to music. The lovely little discoveries that the group of people this show presents to the audience could have been just as effective on paper, as in performance form.

Former jazz musician Jacques has a life filled with people. As he no longer plays drums, people have become his music. The melody of their lives are the songs that fill his days.

Jacques quickly leaves us so we can meet the many favorite "musical characters" from his life. Unfortunately, without reading the program notes or the written monologue, the too-fast transition from this metaphor into these meetings, makes the direction of the show unclear. The sweet, soft "uncle" does not reappear until the very end, at which time he ties up these portraits in mere moments.

Aside from Jacques, and his nephew (the writer/performer?) who introduces him, there are six portrayals over the hour and a half show. All are adult-age or older, and comprise various genders and races. Jacques' picks as "the music of life" are not based on people's education but their ability to see that life is both all about them and not at all about them. But don't get the wrong idea, these lives are not woven together, simply presented as individual food for the soul, with uncomplicated jazz interludes during character transitions.

Sweetness is the first character we meet. We sit in on a conversation between him and his basketball buddies. There's talk of women -- "Tell me something, how you treat this woman. Like a princess?" This leads to talk of relationships -- "Never come apologetically, because women smell out fear." From there it's talk about life --"life is short, death on the other hand is long." Just a little later Sweetness pours forth an oozing, yet accurate definition of epiphany: "It's where knowledge, history, mystery, sex collide and for one magical moment where the banal, the dusty and insipid fall away, disassociate themselves from our person and we are left to rise to the zenith of our own sensorial potential awash in a wave of forbidden bliss." All this only about fifteen minutes into the show. Where does it go from here? A lot more of the same as the rest of the characters also pour forth their life philosophies, all no doubt bits that Hoffman has learned and sincerely wants to share. Perhaps next time on stage he'll spend a whole production showing us, not telling us about these personal epiphanies. Perhaps then we too can experience them.

Uncle Jacques' Symphony
Written and Performed by Dominic Hoffman
Original music by Billy Mitchell

Lighting Design by Graham Kindred
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes, no intermission
The SoHo Playhouse 15 Vandam Street (between 6th Avenue and Varick Street) 212 691 1555
Thursday - Saturday at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm.
From 10/19/04; opening 10/28/04-- open run
Tickets are $35-$48
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on October 24, 2004 performance.
Closed 11/14/04 aft ernine preview performances and nineteen regular performances
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