Growing up with doctors or teachers as parents is common, but growing up as the son of a clown is a radically different experience, as seen in the one-man show, "Humor Abuse" at the Mark Taper Forum.
"Humor Abuse," takes the audience through Lorenzo Pisoni's journey of growing up in the circus. Based on his true story, Lorenzo talks about his life beginning from birth to his career as a clown, as he watched his father perform as one and eventually followed in his footsteps.
Upon entering the theatre, classic piano music is playing. A spotlight shines on a black trunk with gold hinges and an olive green suitcase next to it in center upstage. Other suitcases of all different sizes are stacked on both sides of the stage, with stairs leading to nowhere on stage left, and an off-white tapestry with minimal blue splattered paint serving as a backdrop. The ceiling is strung with red, orange, yellow, green and blue lights. Pictures of Lorenzo growing up and performing with his father are projected on the tapestry background, along with other images resembling the circus.
As the title may not infer, "Humor Abuse" is a heartwarming story told in a humorous way. Lorenzo introduces the title of the play saying, “My name is Lorenzo/My father is a clown/And I have suffered from years of humor abuse.”
From the beginning when Lorenzo "staples" the moving spotlight to the ground, the audience knows the play will be funny, charming and witty. Laughing is inevitable as Lorenzo tells his story.
Lorenzo performs many tricks such as back flips, balancing hats on his nose and juggling bowling pins and carrots. Balloon animals are not present, but balloons do play a special role, especially the blue balloon his father gives him.
Skits are used to create flashbacks of Lorenzo's life in the circus. He reenacts performances done by him or his father. One funny performance involves falling down stairs. Lorenzo is dressed up as a bellboy, and his goal is to carry all five suitcases to the top of the stairs. The combination of sighing to the audience each time he reattempts this and skipping over the one stair he is convinced is tripping him appeals to everyone. Making sure he doesn’t get hurt as he falls down the stairs numerous times keeps the audience alert.
The sandbag act is probably the most nerve-racking and dangerous act, since the sandbags fall extremely close to Lorenzo as he casually tells his story. He stands on marked places so he knows where the sandbag would fall, but that doesn’t keep the audience from gasping each time a sandbag falls.
Humorous as it is, this play has some sentimental parts, especially when Lorenzo reminisces about his father and difficulties in his life.
"Humor Abuse" is also interactive. Warning: be careful if you sit in one of the front rows. Lorenzo just might take you by the hand and bring you to center stage to help him perform a stunt!
Feel free to dress casually to this event. But more importantly, come to this performance ready to laugh, and enjoy this clown's humorous story.