BWW Review: DAVID SEDARIS Is America's Humorist Laureate
If America had an award for satirist-in-chief, David Sedaris would be the odds-on favorite. If there were a garland for humorist laureate, it would rest on his head.
DAVID SEDARIS proves the point in an evening of readings and commentary that is both intellectual, personal, and theatrical. Yes, reading as theatre is a reality in the hands of the author of works with peculiar and intriguing titles like Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked, and Holidays on Ice.
On the Phoenix leg of his national tour and a highlight of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts' 40th Anniversary Season, Sedaris regaled a sold out and adoring crowd at the Orpheum Theatre with readings from The Perfect Fit: Shopping in Tokyo, Calypso, and random excerpts from his Diary.
As he strides on stage in culottes, one might be taken aback by the quirky fashion statement but, within moments, one realizes that Sedaris is literally and figuratively walking his talk. The culottes both symbolize his uninhibited freedom of expression and serve as a clever segue to his hilarious account of a family shopping expedition at Kapital, a most unconventional collection of clothing in Tokyo's Ebisu neighborhood. ("Jackets with patches on them might senselessly bunch at your left hip, or maybe they poof out at the small of your back, where for no good reason there's a pocket. I've yet to see a pair of Kapital trousers with a single leg hole, but that doesn't mean the designers haven't already done it. Their motto seems to be "Why not?")
It doesn't take long either to realize that there are layers upon layers of insight regarding family and the human condition and ultimately an invitation to "venture forth and claim" the wonders of life "waiting to be discovered."
It is a sign of Sedaris's artistic generosity and social conscience that he precedes his first reading with an invitation to Jill Leovy to discuss and read from her provocative new book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America.
As Sedaris proceeds to read from Calypso (which is far more than a story about the feeding of a snapping turtle!) and then from his Diary, he reveals the truth about his extraordinary power to open the doors of perception, to find meaning in the mundane, and to expose if not celebrate our foibles and fumbles and feelings ~ all the while fueling our self-conscious laughter.
Seeing Sedaris and hearing him are distinct experiences, and the two together make for great theatre. His voice is soft and calming, even comforting; his timing is perfect, pausing at just the right moment before unleashing a punch line that turns all prior words and thoughts upside down. That would be enough surely for a satisfying podcast or radio experience. But watching his onstage delivery, catching the arching of the eyebrows or the calculated frown ~ that adds to the pleasure of the live performance.
David Sedaris brings the instincts of an anthropologist and sociologist (and maybe some other -ists as well) to his works, mining the recesses of his and our lives, and gifting us not solely with clever stories but rich food for longer-term reflection.
He is a must-see national treasure (albeit he currently resides in England). His National Tour continues through May.
Photo credit to Robert Banks