By Alex Curtis. Directed by Caitlin Ryan O’Connell
Presented in association with FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade
Off Off Broadway, Clown/Solo Show
Open-ended Run (Plays monthly)
Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street
by Ran Xia on 12.9.16
Alex Curtis in Chalk. Photo by Steven Jaehnert.
BOTTOM LINE: Alex Curtis’s delightful solo literally draws you into a world of magic, and elaborates a story of love, loss, and finding hope with one’s own strength.
The human mind has the extraordinary power to fill empty spaces with vibrant colors even when, or rather especially when there’s a lack of stimuli, and create whole worlds based on one single line. For performer Alex Curtis, that singular line is a hand-drawn one with chalk. With that single chalk, Curtis creates a world where anything can happen, and invites the audience onto an intimate, whimsical, and emotional journey. The silent solo comedy combines the aesthetics of Charlie Chaplin withe the classic children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon, drawing inspiration and paying homage to silent film-era comedians.
After establishing "what the chalk can do," Curtis’ nameless character proceeds to "build" a chalk house around himself. Various elements of the simulated reality appear as objects are drawn onto the back wall: a light switch with a dimmer; a window that looks out into the night sky; a radio, which the man initially has trouble turning on, before realizing he has forgotten to draw an outlet and plug. Afterwards, music plays. The man opens the door to a "date," his heart flutters, he turns down the light, draws flowers in a vase and then also a poodle to set the mood. The man loses himself in happiness and in a moment of passion, kisses the woman. His date storms off, leaving him alone once more, his dream shattered, his heart broken.
At the man’s darkest moment, the coat rack comes alive to console its owner. The man eventually comes to the realization that he is the only one who can pull himself out of sadness, and finds new hope with his own strength. The man eventually wipes off part of the chalk line that serves as the "fourth wall" and escapes from his self-induced emotional prison.
The complexity of Curtis’ creation with merely chalk and a coat rack is truly remarkable. The narrative seems ordinary, yet the combined efforts of Curtis’ impeccable timing and director Caitlin Ryan O’Connell’s wise use of space make the production wildly entertaining and incredibly moving. It’s a universally relatable story of love, loss, and mending one’s broken heart. The lack of language doesn’t pale the storytelling, but rather enhance its appeal. Mike Kirsch’s choreography and Samantha O’Brien’s lighting design are also noteworthy. This impressive team works together as if a well-oiled engine, and brings the audience an experience to be remembered.
(Chalk plays at Kraine Theatre, 85 East 4th Street, in an open-ended run. The running time is 45 minutes. Performances are the second Saturday of every month at 2:30. Tickets are $15 general admission; $12 for Students/Seniors/Military, and for parents with a child. Tickets are $5 for children under 12. Tickets and more information are available at horsetrade.info.)
Chalk is written and performed by Alex Curtis. Directed by Caitlin Ryan O’Connell. Choreographer is Mike Kirsch. Lighting Design is by Samantha O’Brien.