Underneath all the tech wizardry of Broadway, the glitter and glitz and high kicks and special effects, there is just story. And sometimes, story is what we really crave. Children first learn to love literature when someone tells them a story for the first time. And then, the endless pleas; "Tell it again! Tell it again!"
I felt like I reconnected with my story-loving inner child when I saw accomplished actor Dikran Tulaine hold an audience in the palm of his hand recently at an intimate off-off Broadway theater. Stage Left Studio specializes in solo shows, and that encompasses quite a range, from personal tales of comedy and tragedy to evenings of great literature. Dikran has over 20 years of professional experience in the UK and the U.S., in stage, film, and TV. His training at the Drama Centre of London provided him with tools needed to succeed in all these styles of acting, but left him with a special love for classic tales, told in front of a live audience.
The first story he shared was the classic tale from Oliver Twist, The Death of Nancy, a piece of dramatic prose that Dickens himself toured with for years. Even if you know what's coming, the way the story builds suspense, and the way master actor Dikran Tulaine embodies each character with the ease of a practiced magician, soon carries you away. In theatrical terms, this is called "uniting the audience": those special moments when everyone breathes at the same time, hanging on every word.
The second story in the evening is Wild and Terrible Majesty by Honore de Balzac. I was completely unfamiliar with this work, and was worried it would be overheated prose only an English major could love. Instead, it was a thrill ride of a piece, a confrontation between a human being and the raw natural world, a desert encounter with a wild beast. There is a dance between the beast and the human that touched a universal place I believe we all have, where we suddenly come face to face with our own animal natures. Just a few blocks away was Times Square, a High-Def marketplace of ads for musicals and boxer shorts cheek by jowl, vying for our split-second attention. But inside Stage Left Studio, we were led by the compelling presence of Dikran Tulaine into the desert. And we willingly followed, completely engrossed by one man sitting in a chair on an otherwise bare stage.
There's a time and a place to see The Lion King, and a time and a place to sit in a small theater, inches away from a great actor, who brings you face to face with nature, red in tooth and claw. If you haven't been told a story in a long time, come down to Stage Left Studio. Like the rest of the audience the night I saw Dikran perform, you may also find yourself thinking at the end, "Tell it again! Tell it again!"
Wild and Terrible Majesty, dramatic stories performed by Dikran Tulaine Feb. 2 & 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Stage Left Studios, 214 W. 30th Street, off-off Broadway. For tickets, www.stageleftstudio.net