BWW Reviews: Actor/Clown Lorenzo Pisoni Excels at Mark Taper Forum
At the very top in a pre-show announcement Lorenzo Pisoni states quite emphatically that Humor Abuse is about clowning and that he is a straight man; he is not funny...at which point he instantaneously gets a lot of laughs from the audience. Make no mistake about it, Humor Abuse is pretty serious stuff, about a little boy who grew up in a circus in San Francisco, the Pickle Family Circus, and that Larry Pisoni, clown name Lorenzo Pickle, was Lorenzo's overbearing disciplinarian father. Young Lorenzo was Lorenzo Pickle's partner; in fact, he was under contract from age 6 to 10. Father taught son everything he knows, to coin a phrase, but yet it was hardly a normal or a happy childhood. Catch twenty-two, as he wouldn't be where he is or know what he knows today if it weren't for Larry's strict training, yet he would have preferred to really know the father side of his father, rather than the clown side. Sound complicated? Well, it isn't, and Lorenzo Pisoni is such a damn agile and talented clown that the 90-minute set goes by in a flash, replete with tricks, virtuoso displays of ultimate precision and a lesson or two about the ups and downs of life learned from a father... that many, many can relate to.
Humor Abuse is the type of show that has a lot of physical moves like tripping and falling downstairs, or would you believe climbing a ladder in flippers in an attempt to dive off the top rung into a bucket filled with a tiny amount of water. If it sounds ridiculous/impossible, as Lorenzo says, clowning is "beyond reason", and it "defies the rational". When, from 6 to 10 years of age, he was actually under contract to his dad, which meant that he had to perform in every single show, no matter if it was juggling or balancing a pickle hat on his nose, if he said he couldn't do it, his father would never say "I'll help you" but rather "Say...I can't do it yet". It was Larry's insistence that made Lorenzo a true clown, as when his father walked out, 11 year-old Lorenzo went on with the circus as a solo performer and created his own solo acts based on those that he had learned from Larry. Later in life, after his parents divorced and the father had remarried, and Lorenzo had graduated from college and spent a couple of years with the Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, his father reappeared and asked Lorenzo to be his partner once more. Lorenzo had never forgiven Larry for walking out, and so he accepted, and in a scary yet fun sandbag act, Lorenzo watched his dad onstage avoid sandbags that fell from above the stage. Lorenzo pushed the lever offstage that caused the sandbags to fall. His revenge, maybe meager but terribly amusing!
Kudos to director Erica Schmidt who allows Pisoni plenty of freedom and space to relate his story and to Bart Fasbender for his wonderful sound design and original music. Now at the Mark Taper Forum, Pisoni is on board for our good fortune, through November 3. You don't want to miss this show. It's a unique biographical entertainment in which a terrific performer tells his story by utilizing performance elements that show off his skill to the max.
The show must provide a catharsis for Pisoni as he deals with coming to terms with his relationship with his father, but. it will most assuredly affect others who have had similar parental problems of abuse/control. I know, as much as I loved my dad, he worked two jobs and I rarely saw him. When I did, it seemed we had very little communication, except when he got angry. Like in the Pisoni household, angry father translated to sad, silent clown and that, sadly, is where Lorenzo had the crux of their dealings with each other. You will love the audience participation segment, and what Lorenzo does with balloons ... which he claimed to hate, as they took up so much space in the trunk where his sister and he had to lie as his father carried them onstage. I will leave you with one thought: if you don't know what to do with your pent up emotions, blow up a balloon, putting all your feelings into it, then let the air out slowly allowing the feelings to escape...great clown wisdom from a man who was abused by humor.