As an artist, I must confess, I wasn’t the first choice for myself. For Joel Jeske. The producers actually had an audition to find someone to portray me. I was invited to audition, twice, and after a grueling series of callbacks and “look-sees”, I didn’t get it…
So, wryly reflects the acclaimed and commanding performance artist Joel Jeske during his uproarious, clever and thoughtful self-created and self-written show, The Artist Will Be With You in a Moment. Relying on his dazzling clowning, his winning presence and plentiful audience participation, it’s 70 delightful, breezy and theatrical minutes offering a humorous respite from a troubled world.
I’ve been fascinated by Rene Magritte…He was a good painter, but not a great one. He would have found my outfit a bit bright. It was not how he
painted but what he painted. And it wasn’t a question of what he painted insomuch as what he did with the image he chose to use.
Resplendent in costume designer Oana Botez’s blazing red tailcoat, red trousers, white shirt, black bowtie and black bowler hat, Mr. Jeske visually embodies surrealism. With his eerily-made up Stan Laurel-type facial features and his smooth engaging dry vocal delivery recalling that of Steve Martin and Kevin Kline, Jeske is a magnetic performer. Adeptly playing the tuba and ukulele, precisely tossing off puns, non-sequiturs and one-liners, engaging in slapstick and enacting choreographer Danny Gardener’s cool dance moves, Jeske is sensational. A grand highlight is his loony offbeat impersonation of a major American literary figure, involving spectacular pratfalls.
“One Hundred Dented Cans Hastily Hot Glued Together, 2001, Tin, hot glue, $1500. “Four Things That Have Hit Me in the Head, 2003-2016, Wood, brick, rubber, polyester, coconut, $5500.” “Here Is Where I Fell On My Ass: March 5, 2020, 2020, Vinyl, $1500.”
These, are among the titles of objects on display such as tin cans, a pair of pants and a red chair. They’re hanging on the theater’s gleaming white walls, simulating an art gallery and wittily sending up the pompousness of the art world. The audience gets 15 minutes to take in the exhibition while Jeske impassively sits high atop a white cube. Then the show begins, consisting of a multitude of vignettes described by projected black and white supertitles including “Would someone let him in?” Shyness melts away as numerous audience members from all over the L-shaped playing area are playfully coerced into participating in a drawing contest, musical chairs, an elaborate slow walking mirror exercise, as well as other gags. The beaming and quietly jovial Mariko Iwasa deftly assists in the merriment as Deck Management. Ms. Iwasa often handles and distributes Rebecca K. David’s perfect props selections. “They still make whoopie cushions?” is an audience member’s likely thought during one bit.
Director Mark Lonergan’s zippy staging fuses all of the elements together into a resounding event. The ingenious scenic design of Maruti Evans is matched by his crystalline and ever present varied lighting design. Jacqueline Reed’s video programming enhances the production with its entrancing imagery. Familiar classical melodies give way to composer Peter Bufano’s frisky additonal music.
With its eloquent nods to conceptual art, good-natured comedic tone and superior performance, The Artist Will Be With You in a Moment is an intelligent entertainment.
Would anyone be interested in going out with a divorced, balding gay man
roughly…50?…Is there anyone interested in going out after the show? I can be ready really quick. Doesn’t take long for me to clean up and change.
The Artist Will Be With You in a Moment (through March 12, 2020)
Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.parallelexit.com
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission