Written and Performed by Gideon Irving
Produced by All For One Theater
Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 12.11.16
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place
by Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti on 11.18.16
Gideon Irving in My Name is Gideon: I'm Probably Going To Die, Eventually. Photo by Maria Baranova.
BOTTOM LINE: My Name is Gideon is a cabinet of curiosities that charms with impish surprises, subtly plucking at heartstrings as easily as it does the strings of a bouzouki.
“I see the sky it’s bloomin/I show you that I have my fears and/all of them go crashing by” twinkles in the rainbow light. In his multifaceted gem of a show My Name is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die, Eventually, the titular Gideon sings, tells stories, and thrills with winking, silly humor. Generally an international traveling performer who plays out of private homes, Gideon has invited us onto his turf, and he makes the most of offering up its many unexpected contents. Featuring more than 15 instruments, including the banjo, bouzouki, mbira, whirly tube, and scacciapensieri (I’ll give you a moment to Google that), My Name is Gideon is a playful rumination on journeys and who we were a long time ago. Happily based in a space of magical realism, it will tickle you and leave you with surprising poignancy.
The hills of New Zealand and the moss of Edinburgh resonate in Gideon’s aching voice, pulled out like taffy in his meditative original “Stove Top Folk” songs. Like mellow mead, he creates a sweet and sour sound, resonating with the help of a multi-track looper machine and a number of unique instruments. He plays with confident charisma, almost casting incantations that drip with deeply nuanced emotion and impressive vocal range. At times he sounds like crystal, at others, like a yowling animal. The musical performances of the show are entrancingly engaging with beautiful, haunting images and raw exposed nerves. Gideon, master of turning on a dime, is also an entertaining clown with clumsy, offish movements. He is part whirling dervish, part prop comic, and the effect is dazzling.
Gideon makes a pointed effort to create a hospitable feeling of welcome in the masterfully decorated home of a set, designed with tremendous vision by Silvosky Studios. Featuring a cage-like “thinking place,” walls covered in Gideon’s travel notes, and a center-of-the-action wooden trunk of wonders, the space morphs and changes and seems to be many worlds in one. Stephen Terry’s lighting design also deserves praise, plunging Gideon’s otherworldly voice into a stratosphere of light. The overall design direction of My Name is Gideon is beautiful, akin to a dreamscape.
Gideon Irving has been performed in over 504 home shows across England, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S., and the influence of this warm intimacy can be felt throughout the current iteration of his show. My Name is Gideon features an evolution of this practice wherein Irving asks to stay with a different audience member each night. Like a musical Blanche Dubois, he relies on the generosity and kindness of strangers, asking only for their invitation and then figuring out details. There is an inspiring lesson in Irving’s willingness to openly ask for help, the practice echoing Amanda Palmer’s operating thesis in her memoir The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. If folks can and want to do so, it seems, they will offer. Of course, it is also important to recognize that only certain bodies (white and male) have the privilege to be able to move through the world like this, and that this could be a dangerous practice for women or people of color. Unfortunately there is no reflection on this privilege, much to the detriment of the complexity of this show.
Irving is, ultimately, an Andy Kaufman-esque master of control, whose carefully choreographed performance feels like magic. He is also invested in vulnerability and exposing raw humanity, seen in his collaborative CD art projects that he shares at the end of My Name is Gideon. The vein of interconnectivity runs throughout the show and works to bring the audience to a fraternal pitch over the course of the evening; many strangers began talking and laughing, exchanging hugs and handshakes at the end of the night. With playfulness and sensitivity, My Name is Gideon will take you on the journey of a lifetime.
(My Name is Gideon: I'm Probably Going to Die, Eventually plays at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, through December 11, 2016. The running time is one hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission. Performances are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 7:30; Saturdays at 7; and Sundays at 3. There is a performance Wed Nov 23 at 7:30, and no performance Thu Nov 24. Tickets are $35, $25 for students and seniors (there are also limited $10 tickets). Tickets and more information are available by calling 866-811-4111 or by visiting afo.nyc.)
My Name is Gideon, I'm Probably Going to Die, Eventually is written and performed by Gideon Irving. Artistic Consultants are Ewen Wright and Raky Sastri. Choreography is by Lily Gold. Set Design is by Silvosky Studios. Lighting Design is by Stephen Terry. Sound Design is by Dan Gerhard. Costume Design is by Alice Tavener. Property Master is Casey Alexander Smith. Stage Manager is Rebecca Guskin. Press Representative is Glenna Freedman Public Relations.