A good hearted real estate agent in a funk goes to see his dying father, whose last wish is to send his son hitchhiking across the country to plant a bonsai tree. The journey is rough, exciting, and witty, as Venske plays several wacky characters along the way.
Predictably, the goal of the road trip is really about finding oneself, and it is this part of the script that seems a little corny. However, the setting works to create memorable personalities for a one-man show, and it is Minneapolis-based Venske’s acting that anchors the piece solidly.
Most of these characters were comic, and Venske attacks many of them with enthusiasm. A tough-guy boss proclaims that, “Only one letter separates closers from losers,” whereas the morbid, elderly father gently instructs and advises. The main character dances to attract motorists for a ride, whereas a meth-addled truck driver speaks rapidly in a goofy monologue that left the audience in stitches. With these, the improv-trained Venske is at his best, unafraid to bust a move or pull out a silly dialect. His intensity is impressive, and each short scene ends on a poignant or fun note.
With the lighting and the setting, Anthony Logan Cole got the simplicity of the performance just right. Despite having a small amount of instruments to work with, Cole managed to create a mood-enriched atmosphere with lights that denoted different parts of the journey and matched Venske’s emotions well.
Venske notes in his program that his show is “a grand experiment.” In this risk, he doesn’t disappoint – Thumbs Up! is an enjoyable experience from beginning to end, and certainly worth a view. You don’t have to hitchhike, but head down the road to B103 at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church to catch this special one-man show.
Thumbs Up! has 6 performances, ending July 29, 2012, at B103 at Mt Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC
Julia rates this a 4 out of a possible 5.