Clowning around with Lorenzo Pisoni at the A.C.T.

What does it feel like to be five years old and locked in a trunk with a dummy that looks exactly like you?

Lorenzo Pisoni performs his one-man show about growing up as the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus. Historic photo featured on set by Terry Lorant.
In Review

Humor Abuse

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
American Conservatory Theatre
Directed by Erica Schmidt
Created by Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt
August 3rd - 19th
www.act-sf.org
Review by
Lorenzo Pisoni performs his one-man show about growing up as the youngest member of the Pickle Family Circus. Historic photo featured on set by Terry Lorant.

What do you do if your father is a clown? More importantly, what do you do if your primary way of relating to him is between clown and clown?

Such are the questions raised by Humor Abuse, a profoundly touching one-man show by Lorenzo Pisoni, son of Peggy Snider and Larry Pisoni, founders of the Pickle Family Circus.

Many of us still remember the Pickle Family – be it from the local Bay Area performances, acts in greater LA, or elsewhere. Pickle clones became so popular that there was even a short-lived Chasidic summer camp in Palo Alto, appropriately named Camp Pickle. These memories of the Pickle Family are packed with great affection – and more than a little gratitude to both Lorenzo Pisoni for creating this show, and to ACT for bring it back to us, again. No worries, however, if you’re unfamiliar with this tribe, because Pisoni’s show is as universal as Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons.”

What does it feel like to be five years old and locked in a trunk with a dummy that looks exactly like you?

Humor Abuse brings us stories that no one but Lorenzo Pisoni could. What does it feel like to be five years old and locked in a trunk with a dummy that looks exactly like you – and to be petrified of moving lest the balloons packed above you pop in your face?  What does it feel like to trip down the stairs in a pratfall, only to have the off-stage voice echo “do it again”? What does it mean when the only way to get your father’s attention is to repeat his stylized double-take right back at him? Again and again, Lorenzo brings us through this experience – coming out the other side a fully formed adult, as mystified about his father as most of us are about our paternal sires. This is not a story about dissing le papa, but rather decoding the parental mysteries – which in this case, include the father assuming the name of the son.

Lest this sound too grim, I should emphasize this is a rib-splitting funny show. From the very first moments when Pisoni staples the spot light to the floor, to the very end, when sand bags fall from the heavens, this with leaves you with a masters class in clowning.  Where else would you watch someone reveal how to balance a humble home-made hat on his nose or how to fall downstairs?  We watch Pisoni go through his bits, and learn more than a little about being a clown, and growing up in a circus family. However, just as Lorenzo Sr. ran away to join the circus, Lorenzo Jr. had to run away and leave the circus, at least temporarily. He brings us this gem from the other side of his clowning career.

Humor Abuse is a tender, touching, incredibly funny look at what it means to be a child, a parent, and yes indeed, a clown. This show is a gift that shows us what it means to be human.

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