Four for the price of one – what a deal! That’s four characters making a strong impression in the one-person show American Tranquility, which deserves to play to sold-out audiences every night during its all too-short run at the 2019 Capital Fringe Festival.
Examining the state of affairs in the United States during these volatile and divided times, writer and performer Daniel Damiano paints four very distinctive portraits of men living today and musing on what is wrong and what is right about this wonderful melting pot of a nation. Through each of the well-crafted monologues, Damiano brings a very real perspective to light – each one equally valid for the speaker. His skill as an actor is as strong as his pointed and often humorous writing. Starting with the elderly Stanley, and continuing through the immigrant Achmed, the talk show host Morgan, and the middle-aged Ronnie, these men made strong impressions, sharing wisdom and thoughts of the future as they each see it from their own perspective.
When we meet Stanley, we see an older man shuffling on stage assisted by a walker but whose figurative vision is crystal clear. “I can see through bullshit like I have x-ray vision,” Stanley shares. You will recognize such a gentleman as the older neighbor who will talk your ear off or one of the regulars down at the barber shop who always has something to say about the state of the world, especially about the younger generation and how f*ed up it is.
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From the crusty old guy to an affable and effusive foreigner, Damiano easily takes on the persona of Achmed, the immigrant trying to carve out his part of the American dream for his family working retail and entertaining for change in the subway. This role could easily slip into caricature, but the writer and performer paints another flesh and blood human, just like another person you could easily meet as you take the Metro after you read this review. As enthusiastically optimistic as Achmed comes off, he riffs in his bongo-accented poem, “I didn’t ask for cumin in my American dream.”
American Tranquility closes July 21, 2019 Details and tickets
Taking the examination of the deep divide in America today, Damiano next turns to talk radio and one of its many intense, right-wing hosts who expounds those “true American values,” i.e. conservative values – at least that’s what Morgan Ridge states to his listening audience, discussing the sense of exclusion many experience, while others might hear the fear-mongering that often echoes through certain media channels today.
Finally, we are introduced to Ronnie, a New York-accented, blue-collar guy’s guy who has chosen to face life – and his own mid-life crisis – by unplugging and checking out of the urban scene. Ronnie, with the most heartfelt performance by Damiano thus far, has chosen to live in the woods in a cabin he built himself. We learn his story and how he came to embrace the ideals of Thoreau and offers some plain talk about human contact.
Damiano’s performances are remarkable for their directness and lack of artifice, and I found myself revisiting these characters in my mind long after I had driven home and into the next day, a credit to not only Damiano’s performance but the depth of the writing. This show deserves to have a long life beyond Capital Fringe.