It's not every day that a traveling Victorian freak show comes to town, and more's the pity. Presided over by the grandiloquent and opium-addled impresario Mr. Edward Gant, Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness rolls into Shotgun Players' Ashby Stage with an array of perversely grotesque and grimly funny tales of heartbreak ably performed by his roving band of tragedians. "You will gasp, yes, and you will marvel and you will see your share of grotesquerie," Gant informs us at the outset. "But the deformities on show this evening are not the deformities of the frame, but those of the heart and mind."
Sensitive viewers -- or as Gant would have it, "My good and pure ladies, my brave and gentle men" -- should be forewarned that the show involves some disgusting moments. So beware, tender hearts, if you blanch at such sights as copious pimple popping, amateur trepanation and old-fashioned brownface. (The Italian accents in the show are as broad as the Indian one, but the effect is decidedly different.)
Brian Herndon as Edward Gant
Written by Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, the play premiered in 2002 in Plymouth, UK, but it was performed just last year by San Francisco's 99 Stock Productions as that company's first production. That show was easy to miss, however, because it was mostly done at the New York International Fringe Festival, with just a two-day revival at San Francisco State University. Shotgun's production is the first chance that most folks in the Bay Area have to see the work.
This new staging is deftly performed by an ensemble of four, ably directed by Beth Wilmurt, herself best known as an actor (such as in Shotgun's Mary Stuart and Woyzeck or Marin Theatre Company's The Beauty Queen of Leenane).