Suddenly, Joseph Keckler
By Noah Michelson
Photo: Gian Maria Annovi
Have you heard of Joseph Keckler? He's an amazing monologist/singer/performer who plays around New York. We last saw him last summer at the New Museum, and before that, last spring in the play You Will Experience Silence, and we saw him again last night at the Hell's Kitchen performance space Ars Noval. He did his show Talking Beasts. Why that title? Well, one of his monologues is about a guy who labors miserably in the bowels of a classical-music-publishing company and must listen to a coworker's parrot that sings "Queen of the Night."
Keckler also sings several songs himself, including the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs," in a huge, ferocious, operatic, often sinister voice that calls up both Antony Hegarty and Jim Morrison -- often, with scary, inky projections going on behind him, and accompanied by an amazing violinist and guitarist. There is a definitely a dark, scary, twisted side to Keckler's act. But then the show ends with his epic, beautiful monologue about the funeral of somebody's (probably his?) Aunt Marla from Kalamazoo, Michigan, a community-theater diva who was kind of her hometown's version of Judy Garland to all the repressed gays there.
Aunt Marla once played Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and to say any more about what stirring anthem from that musical Keckler brilliantly employs as part of the story would give away a big surprise that Keckler wants to keep for future performances. So we won't. But we will say we hope we see much more of Keckler in years to come. He proves that performance art can both push the scary boundaries and also warm the heart.
For more on Joseph Keckler, check out his website.
-- TIM MURPHY
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