The finale has him graduating from Harvard University with an MFA in acting. His father paid the tuition. Dad is beaming and proudly in attendance at the ceremony snapping photographs. This is decidedly not a harrowing Dickensian tale of a young waif surviving in the cruel metropolis.
There is some Craigslist apartment drama, sleeping in Central Park due to lack of funds, and plentiful colorful Brazilian atmosphere.
Everyone knows three things about Brazil: “The Girl from Ipanema,” soccer and Carnaval. You would think all we do is sing about girls, play soccer and watch parades!
“The Girl from Ipanema” is played often. Carmen Miranda and the beach culture are comically referenced. The gay aspect is breezily covered with a seduction scene in a parked car that goes awry and a relationship with a mentally unbalanced New York City boyfriend. It’s all part of a sugary but not a very compelling one-hour presentation.
Writer Gustavo Pace is the handsome, youthful and animated performer of this autobiographical exploration. He loudly rattles on in Portuguese and English while adequately portraying himself and several characters. These include his father, brother, a female therapist working on turning him straight, and various others he encounters. It’s an amiable and passable performance that’s heavy on volume and shaky on intelligibility.
Mr. Pace played Estragon in a college production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and he performs snippets of it here. For the simulation of his Harvard audition he does a speech of Prince Hal’s from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1.
There is a self-conscious dynamic as we learn Pace has performed his one-man show before and he reads some reviews of it. After a few positive ones, we hear a bit of a negative one, “the piece is not without its problems.”
Besides a Harvard degree, he has a law degree attained in Brazil and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. The show never really transcends the dimension of it being merely a vehicle created by a privileged performer to get attention.
Director Stephen Brown-Fried’s fine staging adds visual variance and quick pacing. The black-walled bare stage has a large trunk in the center that is inventively utilized to suggest the various locales. A small suitcase gets hauled out from time to time to symbolize Pace’s journeys.
Sound designer Julian Evans and lighting designer Ethan Steimel’s excellent efforts add a lively theatricality to the production.
Naked Brazilian is a spirited but minor entry to the annals of self-expressive solo shows.
Naked Brazilian (various dates and times, August 12 – August 21, 2016)
The New York International Fringe Festival 2016
64E4 Mainstage (Venue #11), 64 E. 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.fringenyc.org
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission