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|A CurtainUp Review
Uncle Jacques' Symphony
By Amanda Cooper
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.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
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