With and by Avner Eisenberg as Avner The Eccentric
Lighting Design by Robert Cordella
Production Stage Manager, Nerys Powell
In a departure from its typical fare, the Lyric Stage Company is presenting Avner The Eccentric’s Exceptions To Gravity as a holiday gift to the City of Boston. It is full of merriment and joy for all ages and even features a white-bearded man wearing red suspenders!
Although he appears alone on the stage, Avner Eisenberg is accompanied by occasional Klezmer music, interactive lighting, and gales of laughter from the audience. He pulls one gag after another from the front of his oversized pants or one of his many pockets. His hat and baggy cardigan sweater seem to take on lives of their own as he dons or removes them. When Avner gives it a little twist, even his bowtie serves the purpose of taming his sometimes errant tongue.
In addition to using his clothing, Avner clowns around with the help of some remarkable props. He balances both a five-rung and a ten-rung aluminum ladder on his chin, while his nose props up a single newspaper page, a peacock feather, and a red cloth napkin. From one moment to the next he is either balancing or swallowing (rather, pretending to swallow) something bizarre. He rarely slows down, but does take the time to enjoy a box of popcorn (pulled from his voluminous pants) while watching the audience. In one obvious attempt to please, he shares the snack with those seated in the front row.
One of my favorite bits is his multiple uses of a stack of paper cups. He balances them, he drops them, he picks them up, and, in a most unusual visual trick, mimics a strongman by “bending” the stack as if it were a pipe. Another bit that he employs to great effect is a variety of exceedingly difficult ways to get his black hat back on his head after absent-mindedly knocking it off or misplacing it. Avner shamelessly prods the audience to give him more applause and greater appreciation for each subsequent hat trick.
The show is made all the more enjoyable because of The Eccentric’s child-like qualities, his sweetness when interacting with members of the audience, and his own apparent joy in performing. Avner’s expressive face and wide-eyed looks draw the audience in so we know what he’s up to despite the fact that he never speaks. All of the vocalizing comes in the form of squeals of delight from children and guffaws from grown-ups. It is rare to sit in a theatre with a smile on your face for a full eighty minutes, but I dare you to try to stifle yourself in the presence of Avner.
For those who have seen Eisenberg before (I have not), many of his familiar stunts are repeated in this one-man show, but everything seems fresh and funny. He explains that there is a difference between wit and humor. The former is a joke that may only amuse when first heard, while the latter makes us laugh repeatedly because we can empathize with the experience. We’ve all had days where we drop something, then drop something else when we bend over to pick it up. It doesn’t sound so funny in the telling, but in the hands of The Eccentric, it is physical comedy at its finest. Best of all, there are no age, gender, or language barriers. The humor is simple and Exceptions To Gravity is simply fun for all.