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Best One-Man Show

I FEEL TIRED, it was weird, it was good." Words of an alien abductee? First thoughts upon waking up next to local rock heartthrob Eric Lindell? Or actor-playwright Bryan Bryson reflecting on the January run of his smash solo theater work Romance: A One-Man Show? "Caught between insanity and death, I chose life. I grabbed at anything that eased insanity," recounts Bryson of his one-man show, whose production inaugurated Actors' Theatre's Bare Stage Series, a program that furnishes cheap stage time to company members to perform new works. "That's where I was at when I started writing. It has been a long, slow crawl to walk. In hindsight, I see that it has been a discipline--an art of easing one misunderstood, terrified moment to the next." Bryson's philosophical comedy chronicled the metaphysical decline of Mr. Blissman, top dog at the Romantic Video Dating Service, a matchmaking outfit inundated with incompetent Romantic Special Agents à la the bucktoothed neophyte Stew, who jerks off to football games when he's not trying to forge a "love connection" between trailer-trash characters Toby and Tina. Bryson performed all the roles--a schizoid proposition that ultimately proved therapeutic. "I came from this place of insanity, and I had been trying to explain it to myself via writing because I was terrified," says Bryson. "I had all these people standing around me that I couldn't explain myself to without them dismissing me saying, 'Yeah, yeah, that's great.' They were terrified. So I started writing." Bryson converted those leery bystanders into sell-out audiences and launched a promising career as a playwright. "There I was sharing this explanation on how to survive insanity, and everyone was laughing and liking it," explains Bryson, who overcame self-doubt and numerous other artistic qualms while shaping the work. "Each artist has a critic inside of him or her, and as you learn how to do that dance with the judge in you own head, the better you'll be doing that dance with someone outside of you." --D.H.

From the March 25-31, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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