Created by Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt
Performed by Lorenzo Pisoni
Directed by Erica Schmidt
Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles
Through November 3, 2013
Judy Garland broke hearts singing, “Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown.” But if you are a little boy whose dad is a clown and you yourself live daily with the circus, it is almost inevitable that you will think clowning is the most wonderful thing on earth. From the age of 2, Lorenzo Pisoni crept on stage garnering laughs as he imitated the antics of his parents and other performers in the Pickle Family Circus; it was his family business and he embraced it.
Reading the story of the Pickles in the Mark Taper program you develop an image of a fairly enjoyable but benign childhood. He does garner laughs, but listening to Pisoni’s confession-style monologue it is clear where the abuse of the title is rooted. Dad’s ego was mammoth and his demands were exacting. Maybe there is an element of abuse, or exploitation, for any child whose parent is intensively involved in such entertainment. Several years ago the documentary “Buck” brought tears to one’s eyes; it told the tale of a father who exploited his two sons, incorporating them into his roping act, but abusing them to the point where they were put in foster care. The Buck of the title is Buck Brannaman who went on to become well known as the real Horse Whisperer, traveling the country relating to horses more comfortably than people. Candice Bergen has complained of the intense jealousy she felt of Charlie McCarthy, whom she believed was more important in her father’s life than she. “Tragedy inspires comedy,” Pisoni’s father told him, and the son was “dead serious about being taken seriously.”
Fortunately Pisoni punctuates his sweet and sour memory with antics. Those stairs stage left will be fallen down repeatedly, pins are juggled, bright green swim fins just beg to be tripped over. However, no matter how often the audience chuckles, the undercurrent of “Humor Abuse” is flavored with sadness and abuse, not the humor.
How one feels about going to see a self-exploration monologue tinged with victimization, is a matter of personal taste. With Pisoni’s inherent charm, timing, and storytelling ability, personally I would like to see him do something more dramatic.