Here Lies Henry
In its sophmore season, Interrobang Theatre Project is staging "Hear Lies Henry," a one-man play by Daniel MacIvor.
"Here Lies Henry" is a meta-theatrical style with one character, the eponymous Henry, speaking directly to the audience, acknowledging their presence. Michael Moran plays Henry and fills him with a nervous, twitchy energy.
A plot summary seems beside the point; Henry is telling the audience about his life, history and family. Henry is an unreliable narrator who admits to telling lies to the audience, people in his life, and even himself at points. Dressed in a thin-cut black suit, white shirt, thin black tie and spotless knock-off Converse All-Stars, we find out many things about Henry over the course of the play.
Henry is a liar, as is evidenced by the title of the play. Henry is gay. Henry has a contentious relationship with one or both of his parents. He may or may not have a sister. Henry is searching, sometimes more successfully than others, for love. He may have set fire to his childhood home.
Henry is nervous, as though he is interviewing or on a date. He repeats himself a lot with gestures thrown in to demonstrate ironic detachment (Henry is fond of doing the Johnny Carson golf swing after a particularly lame joke), as well as clutching his throat convulsively whenever he talks about his father (who was a smoker) or doing a prim little laugh and pearl clutching gestures when speaking of his mother.
These are performed with a rat-a-tat delivery that reminded me of one of those camp songs where you have go faster and faster every time and not garble the words. Well, Moran pulls it off. Despite being hampered with some long stretches of rambling, repetitive, non-sensical dialog, Moran keeps the play marching along and even daring you to care a little about Henry.
Henry is damaged, but aren’t we all. He is a liar, but aren’t we all. Some of his lies are bigger than others, and some matter more or less. Despite being firmly and precisely unmoored in time and space, Moran manages to make you care about Henry. It isn’t clear if Henry is being judged by us or is at least awaiting judgement, or why. if judgement is not on the agenda, he is so nervous and twitchy.
Are we weighing his soul, his imperfect liar’s soul? He hates his father (who sounds like a real dick) isn’t very fond of his mother (ditto) and disowns his sister with every breath. But there is something still hopeful in the repetitive Henry and his trying to sort out his life, verbally.
The space that Henry holds is in the back of the Intuit museum, and is a wonderful place for a play about a man who is sorting it all out to take place. Surrounded by the brute art and the art of self-taught artists, Henry’s struggles become more relevant by sheer placement. Though I am not sure if this choice of venue was deliberate or happy coincidence, Intuit is one of my favorite galleries and museums in Chicago, and I was pleased to see the space used so thoughtfully.
"Here Lies Henry" runs through August 12 at Intuit: Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art, 756 N Milwaukee in Chicago. For info or tickets call 773-888-BANG or visit interrobangtheatreproject.org.