An open letter to Paul Strickland:
I hope you don’t mind me calling you Paul. We haven’t really met except to exchange some greetings in passing through this year’s Indy Fringe Festival.
Each year, I have hopes of seeing more Indy Fringe shows than I actually do. Most of the time, the ones that get sacrificed are the one-person shows. I’ve got nothing against storytellers or stand-up comics. I am a great admirer of practitioners of both forms. I just seem to gravitate toward other options come Fringe-time.
Yet every once in a while I’m reminded of the artistry and the joy of the single-voiced arts. That happened this morning at your show, “Any Title That Works.”
The conceit of an open-letter—lifted from the structure that you use in “Any Title That Works”—allows me to pretend I’m writing to you while actually addressing the readers. But it’s limited, since if I were actually writing a letter to you, I wouldn’t tell you the things you already know, like that the show is built on open letters to yourself at different ages. That in one story you visit Metropolis, Illinois, in search of Superman (or, at least, in search of something like the awe you once felt toward Superman as a child). That in another, you introduce us to your beloved grandfather and put us right there at his funeral. And that you actually have non-cliché things to say about caterpillars and butterflies.
I do have to say that I was thrown a little, about two thirds of the way through, when you seemed to fall back on stand-up comedy. Yes, you’ve got great lines there. But this short stretch felt like a crutch that you no longer need. And it interfered with the truthful world you had built.
You quickly brought things back, though, weaving the previous stories together beautifully into a very satisfying finish.
As I write this, you’ve got one show left on Sunday the 28th. I hope it’s a packed one. You’ve not only got a gift, but you’ve clearly worked to hone it. I bet you’re a terrific stand-up comic. I know that you are a wonderful, captivating storyteller.
P.S. I did see one other show today, but I'm not going to comment on it, While I greatly admired the talent displayed, the piece didn't come together, Since today was its final performance, I'd rather just leave the fest with thoughts on "Any Title That Works."
P.P.S: Your thoughts?