One-person shows are always a risk. You buy your ticket and wander into the theatre, cheerily optimistic about getting some culture, and you end up spending an hour or so watching a crashed Yukon bush pilot pretend to cry as the cold slowly drains his life, or a distraught young lady writhe on a mound of gravel, spluttering at phantoms in the darkness. But you don’t leave, because even though you oscillate between wanting to kill the performer and kill yourself, you’re too polite to stand up and walk out.
Making Love with Espresso is nothing like that. Lorenzo Pagnotta takes the audience through a gay man’s life, from childhood in the late 1980s/early '90s to adulthood in present day, as he gradually comes to terms with his sexuality and dating. The dialogue is clever, the reflections insightful and the jokes genuinely amusing. As this young Italian-Canadian travels through life, and from city to city, the various characters he encounters come into existence with surprising ease. Pagnotta deftly shifts from personality to personality, altering his accent or language, his stature, his mood or clothing, and new and totally believable characters emerge (both male and female).
Yes, it’s a story about coming out of the closet, finding yourself and the rigours of dating. I’m as sick of that subject as I imagine everyone else is, but again Pagnotta pulls it off. He persuades even a jaded homo like me to care about his character’s struggles and reflections. The character’s personal journey happens in tandem with a sort of sociological examination of dating and technology. One of the characters Pagnotta becomes, a female teacher of some kind, lectures about cyber personalities, internet dating and phone hook-up applications like Grindr. Yes, I know, Grindr! Haven’t we heard enough? Why won’t people shut up about Grindr? Well, again, I didn’t mind hearing about it when it came from Pagnotta. Notice a trend?
On paper, this show doesn’t have a lot of appeal for me, but now that I’ve seen it it’s a struggle to find anything to say against it. When I search for things wrong with it, the things I come up with seem trivial: he stumbled over his words now and then, it did drag on a bit in parts, there were a couple odd phrases, like “losing hair at the speed of a hyena.” Do hyenas really lose their hair that quickly? Oh, you mean losing hair at the speed that a hyena runs! Minor stuff, and hardly worth mentioning. It’s a surprisingly compelling show, wonderfully well-acted and written, and I thank Pagnotta for his fantastic work.
Making Love with Espresso
Robert Gill Theatre
214 College St