FringeReview USA 2019
“One Actor, 38 roles. It’s Paris, 1943. An actor has one chance at freedom before his derailed train to a concentration camp gets moving. Like Scheherazade before him, this storyteller spins the tales of The Arabian Nights as though his life depends on it–and it does.”
What happens when a traveling entertainer is waiting for a long time at a train station in France? He entertains whoever is around, of course! This is what happens to Guy de Bonheur from La Compagnie de la Lampe Magique and he eagerly opens his trunk full of costumes and props to distract his fellow travelers on the platform with his colorful stories.
The Thousandth Night is a play by Carol Wolf, directed by Jason Heil, featuring award-winning actor and artistic director of San Diego’s Intrepid Theatre, Sean Yael-Cox as Guy de Bonheur. We are greeted by Guy, wearing a black beret, black jacket and striped scarf – and we, the audience are on the train platform and invited to watch his solo performance.
Guy tells story after story, there’s a story about an “all powerful genie”, the one about a sultan, one about Scheherazade and more, each one takes us to far off lands with romance, magical dreams – and then back to reality. After each story Guy shares the special meaning of the characters to him and through some short running jokes and his comments it appears that his own story is far from the stuff that dreams are made of in his tales.
Yael-Cox is a very compelling storyteller and accomplished actor with a strong resonant voice who swiftly moves around the stage becoming what seems like a cast of thousands, well dozens of different characters, at least! He creates brief characters by skillful physical storytelling, clowning, a flash of song and humor. His enthusiasm is boundless as he takes his scarf and turns it into another object in front of our eyes or puts it over his head, or around his body as he becomes different people in each story. One highlight is when he has a conversation with himself, as a married couple! Another is in silence when he changes the expressions on his face with his hands, as if his face is made of clay, this is a beautifully performed imaginative sequence.
The last story about a young woman is more developed in the storytelling than the previous stories – it is poignant, tender and told by Yael-Cox with a quieter tone and without the addition of costume or props. This performance style brings out the best storytelling qualities in Yael-Cox and the play could benefit from more such moments. Yael-Cox effectively portrays Guy de Bonheur with charm, energy, humor, drama, and wry wit, in this play which has a few surprises along the way.
The Thousandth Night is entertaining with a powerful and meaningful message.