at the Annoyance Theatre

Home is an emotion sticking in my throat . . .–Lene Lovich

This performance by sometime Metraform (and former ImprovOlympic) actor Jim Carrane is billed as a one-man show, and that’s no lie. Carrane isn’t only the guy onstage; he’s the guy who takes your ticket at the door, walks through the theater making sure everyone’s got a seat, turns the houselights off when it’s time to start the show, and jumps off the stage to turn them back on again when an impatient stage manager informs him it’s time to clear the house for the next production.

Jim Carrane is eager to please; he’s concerned that everything go smoothly, that everyone has a comfortable seat, that everyone has a good time. When he accidentally drops his wristwatch, instead of brushing it off as most actors would, he apologizes then explains that he uses it to keep time so he won’t get in trouble for letting the show go too long. He’s deferential, conciliatory, ingratiating, and conscientious.

So why is he such an asshole at home? That’s the underlying question in this multilayered monologue by a young man who only lived away from his parents’ house for 1 of his 27 years (“I’m a real risk taker,” he deadpans) and has spent the rest of his life as a nonpaying tenant. He’s so dependent, his parents thought it was a big sign of maturity that he cleaned the fireplace grate one day, flossing each hole separately with strands of steel wool. They didn’t know he was on a cleaning jag because he was rushing on coke at the time.

Carrane, a nebbishy lump in the self-pitying fat-boy tradition of Lou Costello, recounts with dry humor and self-deprecating intelligence the passive resistance and psych-out strategies with which he imposes himself on his parents. Recalling early Spalding Gray with his matter-of-fact delivery of autobiographical absurdities, he describes a showdown with his mom over whose “job” it is, his or hers, to keep the kitchen stocked with Diet Coke. Taking us on a room-by-room tour of his Kenilworth home (brought to imaginary visual life by Carrane’s aptly chosen description and superbly focused physical relationship to the environment), he acquaints us with his house-proud parents (the only thing that kept the family together, he suggests, was the lawn service) and oddball relatives in anecdotes whose eccentricity keeps us laughing while their self-centered insensitivity nags at us. Revealing an insecure side of himself most of us would go to any lengths to hide, Carrane paradoxically affirms his skill and confidence as an artist and an entertainer.

This solo performance is an interesting step for Metraform, which has made its name with shows (Coed Prison Sluts, The Real Live Brady Bunch, etc) that entertain their mostly college-age audiences by wallowing willfully in adolescent self-indulgence: I won’t grow up, they proclaim. I’m 27, created through improvisation by Carrane and director Gary Ruderman, looks at the underside of the Peter Pan syndrome as embodied by a man who’s an accomplished professional in one area of his life and a basket case in another. That it manages to be lighthearted and dark at the same time is testament to Carrane’s considerable skill and integrity as an improv actor; and Metraform’s willingness to support individual explorations as well as its group shows marks it as a company likely to last in the long run.