Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) 6 Guitars

More Notes From the Fringe
by Jim Murchison
Most of the time when I go to a one-person show, I am disappointed. I apply one critical test to my judgement of it. Would the play have been better with more actors and my answer is usually yes. So often the premise of one actor playing multiple characters is a parlour trick. In the case of Chase Padgett's and co-writer JayHopkins' magical storytelling the exact opposite is true. Because the play is about the commonality of the musical experience through various genres and how the musical experience moves, touches and informs us it is absolutely essential that a single actor moves through six different souls. 
This is not easy to do. You first of all need masterful writing that moves the theme with humour and heart through the collective minds and spirits of six seemingly very different people. 6 Guitars has that. Then you need an actor that can capture the spirit and soul that separates the genres of country, rock, folk, blues, jazz and classical and embody them in the characters of each individual player so that you instantly have an understanding of what drew the person to that form of music in the first place.
In fact in the final scene when Chase Padgett plays one song as all six characters invoking their own individual style and personality into it until the lights fade, I left thinking how powerful a statement was made about how very much the same human experience is regardless of what art or music draws us. The play would have been weaker with six terrific actors playing the characters. I don’t know that I have ever felt that more actors in a multi-character play would delete its power, poignancy or humour, but that is what I felt about 6 Guitars.
It is too early to call this the hit of the festival as there are lots of interesting projects yet to see, but I think it is fair to say get your ticket early because the word of mouth will make this play likely not one that you will be able to step into five minutes before curtain. The writing is terrific. The storytelling is personal and brilliant. It is great fun. With a shift in posture or a change in the eyes Padgett becomes a completely different character in an instant and he can capture the soul of music in his guitar and voice as well. 
I think what ultimately made this more than good is that you see a lot of fine one man shows, but you hardly ever see a one man play. Theatre is best when it is a gumbo of spirit and laughter and emotion that is so tasty that even though you feel full you want to go back for seconds. If you can get in, see this show.
runtime: approximately 60 minutes with no intermission

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