Reviews

American Gun Show (originally titled Two Lovely Black Eyes)

American Gun Show

“Chris Harcum bravely approaches a taboo subject: guns. The American, performing in Edinburgh for the first time, is not attempting to brainwash people into being anti-gun — or pro-human as he calls it — but simply attempts to shed light on the mad obsession his fellow Americans have with firearms…While a dark subject, there is still plenty of laughter combined with audience participation. By tackling the subject through comedy he gives theater-goers the chance of a release — without the lighter parts the production could become too dark. Harcum has a powerful stage presence and is a very good actor who is not afraid to put himself on the line.”

-Paula Murray, Scottish Sunday Express

Five stars! Chris Harcum’s charisma was enough to have our attention instantly. Once he’d drawn us in, the tone became more serious: he mixed jokes with facts about violence and guns in his country; and more importantly, he transmitted the real fear and anger of living with this issue. This is not just a satire, it’s a mirror into our own actions, and Harcum delivers a powerful message that echoes in your mind long after the show is over.”

-Natalia Equihua, Three Weeks
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“Harcum doesn’t shy away from the big issues: guns, banks, security, masculinity, fear, love, life, and most importantly, death. Furthermore, they are approached with sensitivity and intelligence. His references were entertaining and diverse: from Batman to Tennessee Williams, Harcum paints quite the picture…Moreover, the show tapped into the absurdities of contemporary paranoia very successfully, and Harcum’s energetic hatred for the uncivilised tendencies of the rare but ridiculous New York baddies was both humorous and captivating.”

-Emma Banks, Broadway Baby

American Gun Show pic“But despite all that weirdness – or maybe because of it – Chris Harcum’s one-man production is among the most compelling shows I’ve seen at this year’s (Edinburgh Festival) Fringe…as he sits alone under a spotlight, playing it utterly straight now, he shares an almost terrifying narrative about the events that have brought him to Edinburgh.  As he talked, the silence from his audience was absolute… and for a while, I swear I was holding my breath…If you’re looking for a show to talk about – where you’ll leave the theatre wanting to discuss both its message and its style – then you really won’t find better than this one.”

-Richard Stamp, FringeGuru

“Execution is a study of theater craft that belongs in a textbook…sprezzatura oozes from every pore and drips onto the stage in a puddle of tightly crafted theatre, created to look like a completely spontaneous phenomenon… (Chris Harcum) works like James Brown… trust me when I tell you the show is worth seeing… flawless.” 

-Will Kenton, Cultural Capitol

American Gun Show pic 2“The potency of live performance is clearly demonstrated by the end of Two Lovely Black Eyes, as is Harcum’s impressive range as an actor and director Aimee Todoroff’s skill… you will want to catch this surprising new work.”  

-Martin Denton, NYTheatre

“We are beckoned to traverse a tightrope of finely tuned observations that most of us ignore…It has been a long time since I left a theater and felt that charge – that exhilaration that comes with the revelation that we are all in this damn thing together and we had better make the best of it…I actually remembered why I came to New York in the first place and to jolt my memory that profoundly is no small feat. Go and see history unfold.”  

-Deborah Johnstone, The Deliberate Muse

Read Aimee Todoroff’s interview for Two Lovely Black Eyes on NYTheatre.

Read Chris Harcum’s post on American Gun Show on The Scotsman / Wow 247.

Hear Chris Harcum’s radio interview on Fresh Air UK/Edinburgh.

Rabbit Island

Chris Harcum’s new play, Rabbit Island, is a quirky, funny, romantic comedy about figuring out who you are and what you want; and how to survive, given that knowledge, in the big city in the 21st century. Let me immediately note that I am a big fan of Harcum’s work, and publisher of a good bit of it. He’s a smart, talented, versatile playwright, and with this new play—absolutely a departure for him—he does not let us down.

The hero of Rabbit Island is Alex, a Canadian mime living in New York City trying desperately to fit in. He faces, he thinks, all kinds of passive-aggressive discrimination, and he suffers from his “niceness.” He’s also trying to deal with his girlfriend, Karen; her life coach and his therapist seem to have very opposite ideas how their patients should approach things and that’s a big source of tension. Later, Alex meets Barbara, a burlesque artist with a passel of issues. Will Alex choose Barbara, or Karen, or neither? Will be dump his uber-arrogant shrink Dr. Bob? Will be figure out how to be a “real New Yorker”?

All of these questions are answered, quite satisfactorily, in Rabbit Island.

-Martin Denton, NYTheatre

“This town will ass-rape your sanity till you’re an empty shell.” That’s just one of the hilariously rude barbs hurled by the crazy, dysfunctional Manhattanites in Chris Harcum’s raucous and rabid hour-long comedy “Rabbit Island,” part of the Frigid New York festival. The main character, Alex, is not really a New Yorker at all but a displaced milquetoast Canadian mime desperately trying to fit into fast and furious Gotham. In his attempts to toughen up, he bounces among macho therapist Bob and two voracious girlfriends, the corporate shark Karen and the eccentric but equally ballsy performance artist Barbara. Unbeknownst to Alex, Bob is also servicing Karen as both a life coach and a lover and eventually moves on to Barbara. As this quartet jumps in and out of bed with each other, two clowns serve as a kind of slapstick Greek chorus.

Harcum draws an insanely funny portrait of crazed urbanites, perfectly balancing exaggerated parody with honest characterization. Each is searching for the key to happiness—or at least the absence of stress—through cockamamie theories.  “Rabbit Island” is well worth a visit. The run is relatively short, so hop to it.

-David Sheward, Backstage *Pick*

Fact: Coney Island was at one time actually an island overrun by rabbits. And in Jolly Olde England rabbits were called coneys. Hence the name. Fact: at the end of the 19th century (before Brooklyn was incorporated into New York City) Coney Island was a haven for rogues, scoundrels, and scofflaws who lived on the beach in shantytown shacks and took advantage of both recent immigrants and plentiful clams. Even then Rabbit Island was renowned for fast talkers, sharpers, and blackguards. This New York, real and idealized in the same breath, is what Chris Harcum evokes in his new play Rabbit Islandl.

Funny thing about this town – sometimes it gives you a directive. Never something easy or fun, New York has a way of crushing your dreams into a glittery powder and then telling you what you really think as it blows dream dust into your eyes. That’s when you find out what you have to do in order to become a real New Yorker.

Alex, a Canadian transplant, moved to NYC to make it as a mime. While pursuing this dream he gets involved with a couple of women, Karen and Barbara, and a therapist qua fast talker, sharper, and blackguard, Dr. Bob. At first the two ladies don’t like Alex. He is a nice guy – you can hear it in his Canadian accent. Dr. Bob likes Alex even less, ‘cause Dr. Bob is the evil Id of NYC incarnate. Bob is a wolf with a taste for rabbit flesh, and Alex is a rabbit. Bob tells Alex the only way to get over his neuroses is to grind his soul into a glittery powder and pour the ashes into the East River. So Dr. Bob gives Alex an assignment: he must bare his most private self on the street and “get it all out” – literally.

Though the production is spare, the script is tight, fast, and full of genuinely funny jokes. Ethan Angelica, Carrie Heitman, and Mel House never let the beat drop, and Joel Nagle as Dr. Bob channels the mercurial menace of New York beautifully. Director Aimee Todoroff sews the whole thing together into a seamless hour of hilarity. As the lights go down for the last time, Alex earns his ears and fulfills Dr. Bob’s directive. Best of all, he’s found someone to share the moment. Because nothing makes you more of a success in The Big Apple than holding hands with a loved one as you squeeze out the rest of your soul onto the sidewalk.

-Will Kenton, Cultural Capitol

Obviously playwright Chris Harcum goes right for the tough questions in his play, Rabbit Island… When we first meet Alex (Ethan Angelica) he is nervously pinging around his therapist’s office, a desperate Canadian transplant who simply wants to  feel like he belongs in this town.  “Some say it’s when you have your first private moment in public …” he goes on to explain, but I would offer that simply unleashing this tirade of neuroses to a therapist qualifies him for at least one click on his “True New Yorker” Punch-card.

After all, isn’t every New Yorker seeing a therapist?  Well, apparently not. “Therapy is for suckers!” declares Karen (Carrie Heitman), Alex’s straight-forward, fast-talking, fast-moving girlfriend.  Rabbit Island is first and foremost a comedy … there is no way to mistake this as you file into the theatre and are greeted by the pre-show performers (Phineas T. Haricot and Mariko Iwasa) who have either hailed you warmly as they directed you to your seat, or (if you’re a little late) have already taken the stage and are performing a physical comedy routine that is almost too beautifully executed to be called clowning, but is too funny to be anything else.

That’s an important reminder, for there are moments when Rabbit Island tackles weighty issues.  Director Aimee Todoroff understands this; by continually framing each scene with the purest of human emotions she allows elements of humor to reach a level of absurdity that never topples over into senseless  foolishness.

The cast of four is powerful; each embodying complex characters and finding the dualities so that the audience is able to both identify with them as well as inwardly breathe a sigh of relief at how different we are (one would hope).  Rabbit Island … a play that has as many twists, spins, highs and lows as any ride you’ll find at the amusement park.  And as you’re deposited safely on the ground later, you’ll understand why, in this town, no man is an island.

-Karen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium

Green

I don’t know about you, but the kind of theatre I love best is the kind that engages my senses and my wits to take me on a journey I’ve never been on before. I don’t need scenery, costumes, or $65 million worth of special effects; all I need is a script that’s smart and heartfelt, a skillful actor who is determined to tell me a story, and a director that guides me into this new world with trust and care. This is what we get in actor/playwright Chris Harcum’s fine new one-man play Green, directed by Aimee Todoroff. It’s the best solo piece by Harcum yet, and a definite highlight of the current theatre season.

This is a sci-fi play, one that relies on our collective memories of pop/pulp/genre fiction, film, and TV—everything from Lost in Space to Star Wars to The Invisible Man—to fashion exotic make-believe worlds around the earnest simplicity of Harcum’s acting. He supplies the voices, the personalities, and the occasional outsized action. We, in our mind’s eyes, supply the rest: a spaceship transporting the presumed last human from one distant planet to another; a bustling television studio where two great political debates between candidates for president of Planet Mumbai Forest are played out; the horrific, stern, vastness of an oxygen farm (where, I imagined, beings are sentenced to the horrendous task of fusing protons and neutrons together, day in and day out).

Yep, Harcum plays all 21 characters in this intimate epic, and amazingly well. The central character is the eponymous Green, who may be the last human being in the universe. Green is a “physical poet” who used to be a professional impersonator for the military. Finding himself stranded on a foreign planet, he gets arrested for doing one of his physical poetry performances in public. He is sentenced to work at the oxygen farm by an ancient, malevolent, nepotistic judge, and after an embarrassing trip arrives there, where he is befriended by the aptly named Enormous. But once Commander Crush realizes that Green is an impersonator, he relieves him of his sentence, and instead employs him in a complex, twisty plot to prevent Ruck (a nasty politician whose diction and posture reminds us of Richard M. Nixon) from becoming President of Planet Mumbai Forest. Complications ensue!—think Star Trek meets The 39 Steps—as the genuinely innocent Green becomes further and further enmeshed in the machinations of Crush, Ruck, Atlas Anderson (Ruck’s opponent), and a mythic Anarchite named Bernard Nietzche. It’s grand story-telling with a moral purpose, delivered effortlessly by the remarkable Harcum as he spins in and out of characters before our eyes.

My favorites, apart from the sweet-natured Green, include Anderson’s robot servants, Ariadne and Bartholomew; the biased judge Trappola and his son, the prosecutor, Trappola Jr.; and Enormous, a giant with a heart of gold. Some of the characters, like intergalactic celebrity talking head Namaste Jones, exist only in pre-recorded voiceovers, and they come across just as vividly. Green is delightful, insightful, and dazzlingly theatrical. I loved following Harcum and his collaborators on this exciting journey. If you yearn to exercise your imagination, this show is likely for you.

-Martin Denton, NYTheatre

Green Investigates Corrupt Interplanetary Elections! Metropolitan Playhouse hosts Chris Harcum’s whirlwind solo sci-fi show.

So our hero, Green, is a lonely human on futuristic Planet Mumbai Forest, where homo sapiens aren’t welcome. Arrested for performing his trademark “physical poetry,” Green is turned over to the mutant Commander Crush, who discovers that the hapless mortal is a talented mimic, and—rescuing Green from the dreaded Oxygen Farms—assigns him to the security team of Atlas Anderson, a candidate in a corrupt interplanetary election. Green impersonates Anderson (literally: they swap bodies) during debates with a sinister rival from Planet Shanghai Bank. Fast forward a few light years, throw in the intervention of a good-hearted prisoner, and a threatened galactic corporate takeover is foiled, then Green set free. Got that? I didn’t even mention the gay Scottish mercenary. If you’re struggling, picture this: Chris Harcum plays all these roles and more in his new solo show, Green—bopping around a bare stage to embody aliens, humans, and robots. It’s like watching the excited antics of a kid cooped up in his room too long: first cute, then bafflingly bizarre. He’s an agile performer, traversing imaginary solar systems with gusto…

-Miriam Felton-Dansky, The Village Voice

The Hypochondriac

My New York Theatre Experience: 2009. The performances I will remember for a long time include: Jane Fonda in 33 Variations, James Spader and David Alan Grier in Race, Mercedes Ruehl in The American Plan, Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King, and Chris Harcum and Kyle Haggerty in The Hypochondriac.  -Martin Denton, NYTheatre

***

Forgive the gush of hyperbole, but I believe that The Hypochondriac may very well be the funniest play in New York right now. You may as well check it out, to see for yourself whether I’m right. This is the latest incarnation of a contemporary re-imagining of Moliere’s 1673 farce Le Malade Imaginaire undertaken by director Matthew AJ Gregory and three collaborators, Shira Gregory (his wife), Chris Harcum, and Greg Tito. (Their work, which respects the original’s framework but brings the piece thoroughly up to date, is based on a 19th century prose translation by Charles Heron Wall.) I saw this team’s last version, then called The Imaginary Invalid, back in July. Gregory and his colleagues have used the intervening months well to tighten, focus, re-tool and recast the play, and the result is splendid. And hilarious…

The Hypochondriac is about Mr. Argan, a seemingly fit and clearly well-to-do middle-aged man who has decided that he is very, very ill. He allows his medical team, led by a formidable quack named Dr. Purgon, to keep him on a constant regimen of pills, tests, and enemas: he’s addicted not so much to particular medications as to the idea of being medicated. He is, in short, a very foolish man, and in the person of co-adaptor Chris Harcum, he is a deliciously funny one to spend time with. Harcum brings a deep empathy for this fellow’s problems and a clown’s broad and fearless physicality. Watch him will himself into having a seizure, or suddenly feel an onset of avian flu, or, best of all, slide down a full flight of stairs after a scuffle with members of his household. This is a brilliant comic performance…

The Hypochondriac, offered at indie theater prices in a delightful intimate setting at the Cell in Chelsea, is as grand and glorious a farce as I’ve ever seen. It deserves the exposure that a long run on Broadway would give it, and maybe some insightful producer will check it out and make that happen. ‘Til then, it’s a highlight of the indie fall season. If you’re in the mood to laugh a lot, this may be the best medicine to take.

-Martin Denton, NYTheatre

The real joy of the show was witnessing a kind of comedic brilliance that we don’t see frequently in modern shows. Maybe I’m nerd because I think Moliere is hilarious, but this cast brought the work to life with the perfect blend of vaudevillian slapstick, tight delivery and genuine acting chops. Moliere’s characters are stereotypes, but in The Hypochondriac, they become real in a way that is simultaneously comfortingly familiar and piercingly refreshing. In short: I LOVED LOVED LOVED this show for its ability to entertain, offer social commentary, and remind me of how essential classical theatre is… Harcum is impetuous and determined as Argan, rising to the tremendous challenge of playing the ass and victim in a troupe full of willful characters.

-Rachel Balik, Pop Matters

As the childish Argan, Harcum has the hard task of remaining interesting, blathering on as he does about enemas; yet he does, using the double-take on himself, whenever he realizes, mid-rant, that he’s supposed to be sick. (In his best moment, after tumbling down a flight of stairs, he continues to rage for a minute before suddenly realizing he’s fallen.)

-Aaron Riccio, That Sounds Cool

American Badass (or 12 Characters in Search of a National Identity)

The subtitle of American Badass is “12 Characters in Search of a National Identity,” and that encapsulates this terrific show quite nicely. In it, writer-performer Chris Harcum portrays these dozen different people (plus a few more in inter-sketch interludes), and he zeroes in on much of what constitutes the “American character,” circa 2008. For its wit, its intelligence, its fearlessness, and the great skill with which it is executed, this is a standout show, not just at FRIGID New York, but of this still-new theatre year. Harcum begins by disarming us, portraying some supposed acquaintance of his who is reacting to the idea of a one-man show called American Badass. This armchair performance artist proceeds to explain what would be good and what would be lousy in a show like this, and it’s hilarious but it’s also way too true for comfort as he talks about how the show needs to be somewhat, but not too, relevant because you don’t want to bore the audience or risk offending them.

Luckily, Harcum disregards his own first character’s advice and treads boldly into terrain that seldom gets play on stage or screen these days. One of the vignettes is about a retired George W. Bush in the near future, playing golf and reminiscing about that fateful day when the Twin Towers were hit by airplanes and he was trying to decide what he ought to do in that Florida classroom. Another is about an American mercenary who works for Blackwater, back from Iraq and trying to pick up a woman in a bar by impressing her with tales of his bravado in combat (“I’m Superman,” he tells her, bragging that bullets never seemed able to penetrate him). A third depicts a one-time military interrogator who is trying to repent his acts of torture via the services of a dominatrix.

Some of the pieces are much more lighthearted, such as the one about a “competitive eater” in training for the Coney Island hot-dog-eating contest. And in the first segment, Harcum demonstrates some really dazzling talent as he explores the notion of a one-man stage combat show. This bit is not just spectacularly impressive physical theatre, but extremely funny as well.

But American Badass is purposeful theatre, and the last piece-in which a character who may well be Harcum himself announces to a small but swelling crowd on the sidewalk that now that he’s old enough to be President of the U.S., he feels like he needs to figure out what needs to be done to fix our obviously ailing Union-brings this socially conscious artist’s concerns right to the fore. The show is always provocative but never polemical, reminding us that political/protest theatre still has the power to arouse us.

Harcum, a fine actor and writer, is well-supported by director Bricken Sparacino and a design team that provides him with appropriate quick-change costumes and a projected backdrop of drawings, graphics, and video to keep the piece flowing interestingly. (There’s also a short film by Evan Stulberger in which Harcum talks about his real-life day job as a teaching artist in a Bronx public school; sort of a gentle rebuttal to Nilaja Sun’s No Child, it seemed to me.)

It’s not easy making an audience laugh and think at the same time, but Harcum accomplishes exactly that throughout American Badass. It’s a combination that I highly recommend.

-Martin Denton, NYTheatre

Chris Harcum’s one machismo high energy M-Force on stage shocked me awake when he turned on the power button. His audience directed opening speech grabbed my attention…His understanding of men’s underlying psychological pain and trauma after wars – whether gang, domestic or foreign – is his forte. I wept as his returning vet poured out his heart. The Blackwater scumbag was a deeply damaged, pathetic American character who could be developed into a dynamic, necessary full character monologue…Of the four shows, Harcum’s is the one I’d like to see again…

-Larry Litt, New York Theatre Wire

Some Kind of Pink Breakfast

Mercifully, playwright/performer Chris Harcum has been adhering to the Geneva Conventions of solo performance…  Gothamist

An excellent, charismatic storyteller, playwright-performer Chris Harcum dives into his one-hour journey back to high school with warmth, humor, and loads of fun ’80s references. Trying to decide whether or not he should go to his 20-year reunion, he recalls his most awkward moments, from being bullied as a five-foot, 98-pound sophomore to his first sexual experiences with an emotionally unstable 17-year-old girl. His only prop is a chair that, among other ingenious uses, cleverly stands in for his girlfriend during sex.

 -Angela Ashman, The Village Voice

Love them or hate them, the characters in John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink have achieved both iconic and camp stature. For those not enamored of the Hughes oeuvre, Chris Harcum’s one-man show Some Kind of Pink Breakfast, billed as going “where John Hughes wouldn’t dare,” might cause shudders. It shouldn’t. Harcum relives his 1980s high school experiences by invoking these films and other period cultural references and giving them a Southern Gothic spin. The combination-and his rich, humane portrayal of a dozen or so characters-thoroughly charms.

-Andy Propst, Backstage *Pick*

Besides death and taxes, the other “inevitable” event in most people’s lives is the high school reunion. Those who weren’t voted most popular or involved in sports tend to deliberate on their attendance, weighing the thought of seeing people they want to see against the thought of seeing people they never want to see again. Writer/actor Chris Harcum has turned his ambivalence into a one-man show, Some Kind of Pink Breakfast. He takes the audience back to the 1980’s, where memories of his bizarre high school experience get muddled with the names of the characters from the movies and bands of the era. Using only a wooden folding chair as a prop and backed by sound effects, he creates various locations, from school to the family dinner table to his girlfriend’s car at a make-out spot.

Harcum embodies his teenage self as well as the kids, relatives, and authority figures in his world, switching between personas by using a different accent and body posture. He gets the essence of these people across without the manic antics or slavery to perfection that mark lesser solo performers. Moreover, there’s something so natural and honest about his acting; he puts up no emotional barriers between himself and his audience, which makes his storytelling all the more affecting and effective. In the chorus to the theme from The Breakfast Club, the band Simple Minds sings, “Don’t you forget about me.” It is unlikely that anyone in attendance at Some Kind of Pink Breakfast will forget the events of Chris Harcum’s past. Here’s hoping that when his 20th reunion rolls around in 2008, he’s already made other plans.

-Lauren Snyder, Off Off Online

The piece isn’t just an ’80s kitsch fest, however. The references are there to soften the blow of a sometimes poignant-and apparently true-story of a very awkward first romance between two outsiders, and how a relationship with a very troubled girl quickly overwhelmed the 15-year-old Harcum. It’s a comment about how the happy, perky image we have of high school doesn’t even come close to the chaotic and confusing reality that many of us faced-and ultimately survived. Under the direction of Bricken Sparacino, Harcum nimbly takes on numerous characters in the piece…His energy is so contagious…

-Kimberly Wadsworth, NYTheatre

Spare of actors and set pieces, Chris Harcum’s one-man trip down memory lane, Some Kind of Pink Breakfast, is long on talent. Harcum embarks on a 70-minute journey back to school, in which he plays a total of 27 characters all at once, with no artifice—only body language, facial tics, and varied vocal tones to distinguish all of them, including friends, classmates, family members, and even his then girlfriend Molly. It is hard not to pity Harcum as he relays what a whirlwind his sophomore year was. Standing only 5 feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds, he is catnip for the bullies who ride the bus with him.

Over the course of the play (crisply directed by Bricken Sparacino), Harcum sprinkles plenty of 1980s references—just about every entertainment nugget, including Dune, Quicksilver, “Bette Davis Eyes,” even Trapper Keepers, gets a mention. But Pink is more than just a recap of an episode of VH1’s I Love the ’80s. In fact, it is downright riveting. As the taut show progresses, one realizes that Harcum isn’t interested in nostalgia, and his high school experience included moments far more scarring than most. Like Van Halen, Harcum too was hot for his English teacher, only she returned the interest. He also details his first sexual encounter, an unsettling tryst with a near stranger whom he eventually learns has many emotional problems. That he plays both of these characters, and does so using a chair as a prop, is impressive. That the scene never draws laughs or snickers is downright miraculous.

This is a very hard show to pull off, even if there had been an ensemble to shoulder the load, so the fact that Harcum is able to do it alone makes his work one of the most vital stage performances of the year. As defined as each of his characters are, Pink moves at a quick pace, with Harcum constantly and sleekly morphing out of one skin and into another. There also is plenty of humor here; Harcum’s piece is rich enough that it successfully entwines comedy with pathos, hitting his emotional truths home all the more easily.

Given his soulful performance, it would be easy to overlook the technical help he receives. Maryvel Bergen’s sharp lighting design helps punctuate the highs and considerable lows of Harcum’s 15th year. At the end of Harcum’s tale, he again poses the question of whether he should attend his high school reunion. His trip may or may not be rewarding, but a trip to see Pink surely is.

-Doug Strassler, Off Off Online

For a refresher course on what the catch phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’ really means, check out Some Kind of Pink Breakfast. It’s stripped-down, flesh-and-blood entertainment, served raw without condiments. And one of the best times I’ve had in ages. The centerpiece of the production is an impressive one-man show written and performed by the ingenious Chris Harcum. Filled to overflowing with references to the 1980s and the decade’s coming-of-age movies, the semi-autobiographical piece is a whirlwind of insight and emotion…But Harcum has created more than just a vehicle for his acting talent. “Pink Breakfast” is a lyrical prose-poem that captures the bizarre transitional time that is adolescence. Using only a chair as a prop…Harcum spins a tale that is original in its wit and fervor, universal in its theme and appeal.

-D.L. Hintz, Style Weekly

The Critic’s Critic (originally titled Mahamudra)

…In the end Roy completes a journey of self-discovery and frees his mind of its burdens. (Hence the title of the show, Mahamudra.) Mahamudra is a Buddhist theory in which, simply stated, we learn to deconstruct the walls we build up in our minds. The point being that the mahamudra must be experienced and this is exactly what happens to Roy. He realizes that (here I paraphrase Harcum’s brilliant script) he’s driven all of his friends away by trying to be better than them so they would love him. Harcum’s words are those of a man who is searching for personal enlightenment and wishes to share this search with others. I enjoyed his descent into his own nightmare and I came away thinking about ways that I too judge myself and others too harshly. Harcum is a very engaging and emotional performer. His ability to juxtapose his dream world and reality is very impressive…his script is astute and intuitive….

-Richard Hinojosa, NYTheatre

Harcum is a seasoned solo performer and this newest piece is well worth the price of the ticket…In this charming 30-minute comedy, Harcum plays Roy, a theater critic who suddenly finds himself onstage, livid when the solo performer he’s come to see fails to show. Ironically, even as he rants against the proliferation of solipsistic one-person shows in the theater, Roy embarks on his own one-man confessional, recounting a disastrous (and weirdly fatal) breakup that led to a commentary, examining both the profession of a critic and also the nature and, dare I say, morality breakdown, followed by his entry into the acting profession.

Mahamudra, directed with finesse by Bricken Sparacino, is a shrewd, if still in-process, piece of comedy and, of being judgmental. Harcum, as Roy rants and raves, demonstrates an intensity that borders on the ‘no-holds- barred’ that more than amply fills the intimate Brick Theater. In this intimacy, though, one also sees the most charming aspect of Harcum’s style – the ability to be warmly human and exceedingly vulnerable. As a critic, I felt, as well I should, lightly and lovingly chided by Mahamudra. As a member of the human race, Harcum’s piece reminded me that the mental ‘tick sheet’ I carry every day may not always serve the best purpose.

-Andy Propst, American Theatre Web

Gotham Standards

Writer/performer Chris Harcum’s Gotham Standards is about the places we escape to so that we can live, when it seems the world around us is dying. At once, powerful and insightful, Harcum’s show is a 75-minute solo tour-de-force that is something to be seen…

-Seth Duerr, NYTheatre

Gotham Standards is an electrifying one-person exploration into the minds of various modern day men of all ages and backgrounds. The new work showcased a talented writer and performer in a unique show that reminded us that in the beginning of every boy’s young life Batman came first. The dialogue is funny, fresh and full of depth…Harcum displays a wonderful consistency with his talent for dialect where most of his fellow American actors would falter.

-Jade Esteban Estrada, OOBR

Gotham Standards is one of the most appealing pieces of Fringe theatre I’ve ever seen. Chris Harcum possesses a uniquely unified sensibility that plays with paradox…He deploys all the best tools in the one-person-show arsenal– his self-deprecating, “we’re among friends”-type introduction then blasts into an exhilarating showcase of boldly-painted characters that sometimes directly, sometimes elliptically, circle a gnostically-strange-and-beautiful central motif. Harcum is able to be very personal, but avoids being embarrassing; the poignant moments in the midst of hard-edged comedy are never injected or contrived…Harcum is special in his affirmatives to all of the above, evidence of a richly gifted writer/performer. Gotham Standards is smart, funny, edgy, angry, silly, and sad– utterly and transcendentally human. Not to be missed.

-Dalton Cormier, Chronicle-Journal

…So who was the best Batman, Chris asks his audience…Harcum has an innate gift for dialect and impression, an ability that makes every character he morphs into completely believeable, no matter how outrageous they might seem to be on the surface. Hs verbal talents are so matched by his movement skills that the audience can believe he IS all those characters, and not just an actor playing them…And Harcum’ s spot-on sense of comic timing will-even when you’re not laughing, which is often-have you smiling throughout. And you will keep smiling, albeit with a bit of mist in your eye, as Harcum’s “15 seconds” of introsepction comes to an end and he says a final goodbye…Chris Harcum has accomplished a true tour-de-force, not only showcasing his many acting skills, but his marvelous writing abilities.

-Robin Chase, The Phantom Fringer

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