Story: Lonely 1 is a sad sack kind of fellow. He’s amiable enough, pleasant and well-meaning. He doesn’t speak much, though. In fact, he doesn’t speak at all, it seems. Even when he mouths words, no sound emanates from him.
Still, the inquisitive guy gets across the point that he’d like to meet a woman with whom to share his joys and heartaches. Lo and behold, somewhere inside a giant video screen he sees her. She notices him, too, and they form an immediate bond.
Life is complicated, though, for Lonely 1. He can’t seem to get his dream lady firmly into his world, nor is he allowed safely into hers for any length of time. What the heck can he do to solve this dilemma?
While he’s pondering his fate, a French carnival barker appears on the screen. He has such a deal for Lonely 1: Play the carny game, be really creative and see if Lonely 1 can rack up the 300 points required to attain “eHappiness.” There are no cliches in Oddville, though, advises the mysterious barker, and tricks which don’t impress him result in lost points and steps backwards.
Does Lonely 1 have what it takes to capture his elusive dreams?
Highlights: Comedian Dave Shirley and director Robert Dubac pull out all the stops with rapid-fire dexterity and dazzling creativity in the witty, wondrous and wacky Oddville. It’s a place you haven’t seen before and likely won’t again, and a pleasing destination it is.
Other Info: Shirley’s voiceless character is part mime, part Charlie Chaplin, part Harpo Marx and part the mute character often portrayed by Jackie Gleason on his old TV variety series.
He has a Ziggy-like wonder about him as he pores inquisitively through a variety of props, such as a box filled with special knickknacks including an inflatable woman. She dances with Lonely 1 as long as the jukebox works, which is sporadic.
There are numerous head-scratching achievements in Oddville, where an audience wonders just how Shirley, Dubac and any assistants exactly pull off so many clever feats. The hand is quicker than the eye, ‘tis said, and never more in evidence than in Oddville.
The 90-minute, one-act show is a funky combination of old-time tunes warbled by the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Shirley Bassey (?) with some later vintage numbers, such as Phil Collins' Against the Odds and The Who’s Let My Love Open the Door. A song such as the latter is taken literally in Oddville with humorous results.
Dubac has visited Westport a couple of times with his own unusual and intelligent brand of humor (The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?, Book of Moron) and does just as well from a director’s vantage point. Shirley’s timing is virtually flawless as he ‘migrates’ between the real world at stage front and the ‘virtual reality’ behind a large screen. I can’t begin to figure out how he manages some of the magic acts, but they’re fun and engaging, for sure.
The show dips only twice, really. One is during an overly long audience participation piece, a musical interlude that grows wearisome after a point despite the good nature of the participants. The other is a peculiar decision to include a song patterned after the Johnny Cash hit, I’ve Been Everywhere, which features a string of vulgar, coarse and politically incorrect pejoratives just because. Sadly, that’s the one time Lonely 1 actually speaks (OK, sings).
For most of one’s journey through Oddville, though, a sense of wonder moves side-by-side with Shirley’s deft comic talents and the performer’s droll sense of humor, first noticed nationally on the TV series, America’s Got Talent. The Denver-based comedian is equally adept at physical comedy and clever forays into sophisticated humor.
Dubac keeps the show moving magically along, with nary a drop in pace or precision save for those mentioned above. Oddville is very different from anything you’re likely to have seen or will visit, a city which has no comic limits once you enter its peculiar and fascinating locale.
Play: Oddville: A Love Story?
Company: Emery Entertainment
Venue: The Playhouse at Westport Plaza
Dates: December 28, 29, 30
Tickets: $50; contact metrotix.com or 534-1111
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Oddville