Full disclosure: I have spent most of the last decade as a teacher, immersed in the world of autobiographical storytellin . I work with my students to become less “literary” and more “conversational”. I teach them not to use notes so that they can converse and connect better with the audience. I ask them to stand, rather than sit, to add energy and urgency to their performance. So, when David W. Grant started his autobiographical show, 5 Epiphanes, by sitting in a chair, cracking open a binder, and reading from it in florid prose, I thought, with a groan, “oh, dear.” To my surprise, I was captivated…for the first half of the show.
Like storytime for adults, Grant sits in a modern version of a wingback chair in the small space at the Pursuit Wine Bar, sipping a Negroni while regaling us with true tales from his life with friendly panache. Ensconced in his plain black binder is a veritable cornucopia of GRE vocabulary words and literary references which swirl around and arrange themselves into a set of short stories about (you guessed it) five epiphanies that had significant impact on the way he sees the world.
As he reads, Grant vibrantly describes the world he inhabited at various times in his life, from school days, to a drug fueled weekend of debauchery, to his time in the Peace Corps in South Korea and more. Each section ties up a little too neatly with a life lesson or three, and (in most cases) a bit of awkwardly shoehorned-in commentary on how the lesson relates to our current political environment.
closes July 23, 2017
Details and tickets
It is Grant’s skill in creating an immersive world with words that makes the front half of the show appealing. Elevated language of the kind he employed could be inaccessible, over-intellectual or even cold. Reading from a script could be stilted and flat. But he executes the writing and reading with flair and a dash of self-deprecation that keeps the performance grounded.
Characters like Lord Byron, the privileged son who presides over his mother’s baronial estate in Middleburg, VA during a weekend of Bacchanalian revelry, and the chain-smoking teacher who attempts to get his young students to dig deeper into the text they are reading, vibrate off the page. Grant’s descriptive language is so vivid and visual, listening to him is like watching a 3D movie – you feel like you can reach out and touch the realm he is describing.
About halfway through the show, the tone started to become more conversational. Grant started dropping the black binder and speaking more off-the-cuff. He leaned forward and gesticulated with more energy and urgency. All the things I had expected, even hoped for, at the beginning of the evening. But it just wasn’t as much fun as the first half. It was as if the script was unfinished. Or, perhaps he had worked on it by starting at the top over and over without every really giving the end the same attention. The end of the show just dropped away, like the ash hanging off the end of his teacher’s cigarette. Nevertheless, should he choose to finish the show one day, I’d be happy to sit and listen to the rest of his story. I’ll even buy the Negronis.
5 Epiphanies written, performed and directed by David W. Grant. Reviewed by Amy Couchoud.