The prospect of death doesn’t seem very funny. Fraught with complications and impending doom, most people try to ignore the topic. Joel Jones, however, walks the fine line of morbid comedy with delightful ease in his solo performance, Life Insurance. Jones explores one highway fatality – seen from three perspectives – with great care in this amusing piece.
A trio of men recounts their involvement with a recent motorcycle death, using the incident to explain their own lives and philosophies. One is a self-assured life insurance salesman, one a rural and overzealous Bible-thumper, and the last, a nerdy ex-professor in a mid-life crisis. Each plays a critical role in the tragedy.
The twist? Jones portrays all of them, changing only one prop to transform into each man. The script has some deep wisdom and could certainly elicit laughs, but its finest point was the detailed characters. Each demanded empathy for his own reasoning and each had complex histories and quirks.
This fine script will also please Wahoos and other Virginians, as it’s set squarely in Charlottesville (with plenty of references to the local culture).
Jones displayed utter dedication to the spirit of these three men, never once mixing up or underplaying them. His work with accents is credible, showing subtle changes in socioeconomic status and location. The small differences Jones changes physically are, combined with his acting, realistic enough to suggest a whole new persona.
And Jones, even throughout the serious motifs of the piece, gave straight-faced remarks that had the tendency to garner wild laughter from the audience. His droll comic delivery was a hit, but don’t let that undersell you on Jones’s contemplative themes.
For the one-man show lover, this is the piece for you. During one monologue, the classic sales pitch is dissected as a recipe for success. With Jones’s certain formula, and his entertaining performance, he’s sure to sell you on Life Insurance.
Life Insurance has 4 more performances at The Bedroom – Fort Fringe, 610 L Street NW, Washington, DC.