I saw this show yesterday and I can’t stop thinking about it.
For reasons I’ll try to explain, I am without the usual adjectives to articulate the experience. The show was not ‘good’, but it also wasn’t ‘bad’. I didn’t ‘like’ it, but I didn’t ‘hate’ it either... Which is not to say my reaction is therefore neutral - in fact, I am overwhelmed.
I chose to see the show based on the fact that, in every technical way, it satisfied my needs perfectly. A solo show, at the hour I am free, in the neighborhood I am in. Done.
Ticket secured, I chose to burn the remaining 20-ish pre-show minutes at Pizza Luce with a drink and a slice, reading up on the show I was about to see.
Although no 'The Television will not be Revolutionized', the show 'I Have Aspergers, What’s Your Excuse' has had some hard slaps from it’s audiences. Online reviews said things like, ‘Art is supposed to evoke emotion, and in this show, it succeeded. Unfortunately, the emotions it evoked in me were pity, disgust, and embarrassment,’ and ‘I wanted there to be a point. And there wasn't any,’ and ‘...this is the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.’
Apparently what I had in store with 'I Have Aspergers, What’s Your Excuse' was a monologue of vulgarity, rants, and conspiracy theory. Admittedly the thought crossed my mind to remain where I was. Why leave the comfort of whiskey and pizza to willingly endure what is uniformly confirmed to be - at the very best - ‘an experience’?
To report back to you, of course. So, in I went...
I counted about 12-15 people total in the audience; not bad. More than I expected.
In front of me was a family; a conservatively dressed woman and man, and two boys of about 13-16 years old. A couple of older ladies to my left; and a smattering of people in one’s or two’s around me.
There was no pre-show music or lights and the stage was bare but for a single, silver music stand. After the usual Fringe voice-over, the performer, Pat, entered from the wings and walked to the music stand.
About 40 years old, he was holding what looked like 10-15 pieces of unbound, two-sided, type-written pages. He wore blue jeans and a purple, tie-died t-shirt that read ‘I have Aspergers What’s Your Excuse.’
He spoke continuously for the next hour. He didn’t sit or take so much as a step in any direction. He didn’t take a drink of water or do anything with his hands but hold the papers and turn the pages when necessary. He did occasionally look up and out at the audience, usually with something of a mischievous smile.
He talked about his family a little, and politics a little, and masterbation a lot. He talked 9/11, and abortion clinics, and his cat (who sometimes travels with him). He read a list of 69 things he’d like to put on a t-shirt, a couple of which actually made me laugh... alone... in the silent darkness of his audience.
Pat was diagnosed with Aspergers fairly late in his life and talked about being bullied, and his parent’s reaction to his childhood idiosyncrasies. You’re actually with him at first - this could be really profound - and then suddenly he’s Willy Wonka and you just got into that spooky fuckin’ boat that cruises through hell. Every once in awhile you catch a glimpse of an image or an emotion that you identify with and you’ll be on the verge of empathy again - and then you’re plunged into a story about necrophilia and diarrhea and he’s grinning in a smug, distracted way and your heart stops with fear.
And so it went, ‘round n’ round n’ round. After pondering this show for a bulk of the time since, my hunch is this: What we experienced was a hand-held tour through the unfamiliar synapses of his brain. A short ride aboard the current of thoughts that seem to us disjointed and vulgar - because they are disjointed and vulgar - but are his very natural state.
The people around me didn’t move a muscle for the full hour and when the lights came up, everyone just shuffled out in silence. Heads down.
I probably will not see another performance by the ‘Reverend Pat’ - a nickname I discovered he is sometimes called online. But, god help me, I’m glad he’s out there.
He’s odd and hard to define. He’s honest and unapologetic and above-all fearless. His work has a very well-deserved place at the table of creative and human consciousness.
All that being said, at risk of being cornered by you at The Crooked Pint - you perhaps shaking a clenched fist in my face, demanding an apology for suggesting you see this show - let me be clear. It’s terrible, you’ll probably hate it and I can’t and don’t recommend you see it.
Honey Whiskey on the other hand? That is good every damn time.