BOTTOM LINE: Entertaining, if not incredibly complex; Jim David is a better comedian than actor, but he tells a fun story.
South Pathetic is written and performed by stand-up comedian Jim David. Dressed in simple black shirt and pants, David frames the show by relating some of his experiences performing in New York (including a VERY short run in a Broadway flop- his bio reveals it was the infamous Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public). But the bulk of South Pathetic concerns David's experiences directing a production of A Streetcar Named Desire in small-town North Carolina (Thermal City, to be exact). As is the case in many solo shows, David embodies each of his characters with little more than a change in posture, facial expression, or speaking voice.
South Pathetic, with its focus on small-town community theatre (read: low budget, no talent, big egos), invites immediate comparisons to the movie Waiting for Guffman; like the movie, David even includes a "where are they now" coda. So it probably isn't surprising that the humor is really easy. After all, we expect a group of rural hicks (a stripper, a car salesman, and a teenage geek, among others) to be artistically clueless and untalented, so it isn't that shocking when they are. In Waiting for Guffman, everyone believes in their own talent, which gives the humor a darker edge, and somehow allows the characters a sort of dignity. Here, no one seems to be under any sort of illusions, least of all David, who immediately gets how amateur this company really is. Seen through David's more urbane eyes, they become more caricatures than characters. And there isn't much in the way of dramatic tension. That said, these people are funny.
David's experience in stand-up comedy is extremely evident here: the script is filled with many funny quips, often delivered in a typical stand-up rhythm. And I must admit, many of these lines made me laugh. However, David is strongest when performing as himself, talking directly to the audience. When he becomes the other characters, he sometimes drops his physicality, or briefly loses whatever accent/speaking voice he is using. But the characters David creates are very distinct, so this isn't a huge drawback. If South Pathetic isn't the most polished solo show at the Fringe, it is a good bet when you want an easy laugh or two.
(South Pathetic plays at Tom Noonan's Paradise Factory, 64 East 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, through August 21st. Remaining performances are Sunday 8/15 at 7:15pm, Monday 8/16 at 10pm, Wednesday 8/18 at 6pm, Friday 8/20 at 7pm, and Saturday 8/21 at 3pm. For more information visit www.jimdavid.com. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)