“Well,” I asked Seth Lepore when I ran into him outside the New Century Theatre on August 1, “are you feeling like a confident out-of-town favorite now?” After two successful Minnesota Fringe Festival appearances by the Massachusetts artist, I thought it was a safe assumption.
Actually, Lepore admitted to a little nervousness: “This is the first time I’m coming to Minnesota with a premiere show. And, I’m using props!”
As it turned out, the props were no problem for the usually minimalist Lepore at his first 2013 Fringe performance; instead, sound and lighting glitches became increasingly prevalent as the show neared its conclusion. Like the vet he is, Lepore handled them with aplomb.
Lepore’s new one-man show, Firecracker Bye Bye, is a tender and funny ode to his late grandmother Nonie. Lepore tells the story in the first person, often alternating between playing himself and playing Nonie. The aforementioned props are largely knitwear, many items of which get laughs simply by their appearance onstage. A tethered pair of mittens do double duty as telephone receivers.
Unsurprisingly, Lepore’s characterizations feel compelling and genuine. He’s a gifted performer with a rubber face; he can lucidly switch characters just by cocking his head and changing his expression. His Nonie is lovably quirky, and in that respect the show is a success.
Where it’s not as successful is at the script level. We see Nonie from Seth’s perspective, and we believe him when he tells us she was one of the most important people in his life—but we have to take his word for it, since the script doesn’t give us any information about what makes Nonie so integral to Lepore’s life. We also don’t learn much about her beyond the cute bits that emphasize her entertaining side, perhaps at the expense of a side that Lepore has seen and failed to portray here.
Still, everybody loves a good grandmother, and this heartfelt show is just about impossible not to enjoy. Bring your grandmother—whether she’s alive, or simply alive in your memory.
Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.