SAN DIEGO — Don Victor is a funny man. He would be funnier, one suspects, if he would relax and just let the fun flow.
"Picture Postcard," Victor's most ambitious piece yet, at Sushi Performance Gallery through July 22, has evolved since being commissioned for this year's Neofest. It began as a series of characters in a small town. That proved constricting, so Victor opened it up as a series of six people he has known, beginning with himself as a child (a scenario that sinks him into an uncomfortable case of the cutes) and ending with himself as an old man.
Not a bad idea to sketch out the times of one's life--those lived and yet to be lived--but somewhere along the line, Victor got the idea that all these monologues are \o7 supposed\f7 to have a theme and so, of course, he tells us what the theme is, does the monologue and then tells us what he told us.
The theme then gets repeated in between every segment in a sonorous tone. There are people who are square pegs in round holes and such people are important.
The show is a picture-perfect example of why most ideas are better shown than said.
"Postcard" is as uneven as the selection of material. It's hard to resist Victor's cowboy, who proudly sings only one kind of music--the "really bad" kind. It's harder to buy him as a waitress; as nicely written as the piece is, the swaying makes him seem more effeminate than feminine.
One of Victor's great gifts is his skill at improvisation. He uses the audience to great advantage as the storyteller who solicits bizarre word contributions to what gets to be a wildly improbable story. At one point Friday night he had a duck-billed platypus driving along the road with a smoking pistol, a cannibal and Superman, and made it all work.
But the heaviness of many of his other choices makes one long for the good old days when he did light-hearted pieces like Chef Jean Bob, who taught his students to "caress their food" before they hacked it to bits; the argument he used to have with the tape recorder that kept interrupting him; the song he used to sing to Whoopi Goldberg, one of his former comedy partners. And why not work the creation of Hedz, the bizarre clay figurines that he makes and sells, into the show?
Maybe the problem lies in the very title of the program.
Let's face it, there's nothing funny about the name "Picture Postcard." No one is objecting to jokes with meaningful reverberations a la Kathy & Mo school of comedy. But meaningful reverberations should sneak up on you unawares, not tug and strain like a moral in search of an illustrating joke.
Maybe Victor should rename the show "Don Victor Having Fun" and do just that. The audience would have more fun, too.
And they would still learn something. Don Victor has a lot to say.