If there is one quality that is universal about clowns – it is they always seem alone.
Therefore, it’s appropriate that in the one-man show “A. Lone,” the performer Aaron Marquise is dressed in baggy pants and wearing a touch of white makeup accented by a bulbous red nose.
As the title suggests, the 45-minute digital film is about isolation. A wakes up on the stage of a theater, empty except for a huge stack of discarded shoes, sneakers and various types of footwear. There seems a war or armed conflict is going on outside.
Indeed, the war in “A. Lone” is more atmospheric than it is threatening. The battle is internal as A faces how to survive when everything has been taken away from him. Everything except his memories – which in this work morphs into hope for the future as much as it represents the loss of the past.
Marquise, who trained at the prestigious National Circus School in Montreal, clearly understands and is proficient in the art of clowning. He uses all the tools of his craft to suggest rather than belabor.
He wants to mix the existentialist threat of aloneness with the inherent comedy that comes from being alive. It’s a bold choice that is only sometimes achieved.
The comedy is broad, but short of pie in the face. The humor comes mostly from the failures of accomplishing basic tasks of life. Like sitting in a broken chair, pants that keep falling and even roller skating.
The failures are symbols of frustration more than they are incompetent errors. If Marquise drops something while juggling, you know it was purposeful and intended for laughter. There is nothing inept about the skills of the performer. Indeed, he is only 29 years old and has the poise of a seasoned veteran.
He is also a very talented individual. He is able to display physical dexterity that when mixed with a soulful persona makes his character a sensitive soul. And he does it without making A seem pathetic. This permits the work from being dreary as we laugh with him rather than laugh at him.
However, as impressive as is Marquise’s skill and as charming as is his personality, his youth is not always as asset in “A. Lone.” To be frank, the play lacks a sense of poignancy because it’s difficult to believe his life was as he remembers it.
When A recalls his past as an acclaimed performer, even when he nails an Elvis impersonation, it seems artificial. Those memories seem an invention of imagination rather than a regret about genuine lost glory.
The same is true of his relationship with his symbolic family. It’s the most confusing element in the presentation.
That’s because it is extremely difficult to accept the vital man on stage as a crushed individual without a future and nothing but his memories to sustain him. Without the weight of age and maturity, the depth of his loss is diminished.
Another major flaw is the canned laughter, enthusiastic cheers and false applause that accompanies parts of his recalled performances. Aside from sounding overly enthusiastic for simple stunts, they intrude on the isolation that is so critical to the theme of the work. It is an almost condescending sign to the audience that they won’t get it without help.
However, in all other areas the tech is superb. This is one of the slickest visual presentations I’ve experienced digitally. It looks and sounds great and makes you feel present - intellectually, emotionally and physically.
Marquise started work on “A. Lone” four years ago, well before the pandemic. It’s remarkable how much it speaks to today’s world. Though not a profound work, it is skilled, thoughtful, well-produced, and engaging.
“A. Lone” is produced by Marquise’s company Contemporary Circus & Immersive Arts Center. It is available for a fee at cciac.us/alone.
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.