A one man show is a delicate balancing act of charm, dedication and applicability. That is, the performer must be committed and charismatic (or at least entertaining), while the show itself needs to be relevant or interesting to the audience. In “Disengaged”, Vancouver-based Efthimios Nasiopoulos weaves a charming, personal tale of familial pressures and romantic missteps that justifies its existence enough to satisfy. Phil Luzi directs stand-up comedian Nasiopoulos through his autobiographical saga of lost loves and missed chances, creating a piece of theatre that is pleasing and heartwarming, if unsurprising in what it teaches.
A raised platform, a chair with a suit jacket hanging on it, and a closed door are all that appear on stage as the lights come up. Slowly, Nasiopoulos emerges from behind the curtain, double-checks the folded papers in his hand, and begins his story. His story starts with a wedding speech (hence the papers – thankfully not his actual script) which sets the stage for the rest of the show. This is a man who is a hopeless romantic, who believes in love so much he’s afraid of it. It’s an effective beginning – I can certainly empathize, which had me hoping his story would also be something I could empathize with. It wasn’t – but that turned out not to be a bad thing.
For the rest of the show, he talks. He regales us with childhood romantic traumas that are funny and endearing in their specificity and honesty. Frequent self-imposed interjections and asides point to his career as a stand-up comedian, and most of them work. Nasiopoulos has a casual, mumbly delivery that belies how fervently he believes what he’s saying. It’s a charming balancing act; the words come out so fast and with such earnest sincerity it’s as if he’s a close friend sharing a funny story. This habit works against him in a few instances where his well-thought out jokes, deserving a more dedicated enthusiasm behind their punchlines and set-ups, don’t match up with his good-natured demeanour. A few of his impressions, for instance, earn an instant laugh from the audience by being assured and surprising, but they quickly melt back into his own voice as he gets preoccupied with returning to his story.
So it is important, then, how the story stacks up. Nasiopoulos is honest and amusingly self-deprecating in the recounting of his two failed engagements and subsequent search for love. He speaks to childhood experiences and familial relations in ways that hint at why his life took the course it did. This is a guy who has learned enough from his repeated patterns to slightly alter his course and enact meaningful change in his life, and that is something an audience can appreciate. If one wishes he could have delved a bit deeper into how his family and childhood impacted the ways he viewed and views love, monogamy, and marriage, it is a small complaint in the face of the ways in which his vulnerability shines through in the performance. This is an extremely personal story, and it is hard not to be moved as the emotions Nasiopoulos ignored for so long come bubbling up through his performance. If vulnerability in theatre is an asset (and I strongly believe it is), this is a show you’ll want to see.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Andrew Sawyer
Efthimios presents “Disengaged”
When: June 9 – 17, 2017
Where: Montreal Improv Theatre A, 3697 Saint-Laurent Blvd.
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: www.montrealfringe.ca | 514.849.FEST (3378)
Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival