LYLH First Draft Reviews

Here’s the spot for first drafts of reviews of “LYLH!”


4 Comments on “LYLH First Draft Reviews

  1. “LYLH” Review

    I’m going to start out by admitting that I know with Tommy Karner. I saw the original production of “LYLH” when it was first put up in October. Seeing it again is like running into an ex: you’re not really sure what’s changed or if you still like them. This time around, I had similar feelings, but the things that changed really bolstered my overall enjoyment of the piece.

    The concept of “LYLH” is solid: the fractured mind of someone going through loss. He is met with himself on six separate screens representing six different emotions (Happy, Sad, Lonely, Angry, Confused, and Curious). Tommy’s use of media and his unfortunate experience of losing his mother to cancer blends together well. During this run there were some technical difficulties and Sad’s monitor wasn’t working, but it didn’t hinder the production’s power.

    That being said, I saw some kinks that slowed down this otherwise fine working machine. For starters let’s just get the television thing out of the way. Combining two forms of presentation media (live stage and television) is always a challenge. The televisions working are integral to the production and they worked fine, they just need to be tweaked a little more. The line cues could be a little tighter so that the flow of the back and forth isn’t completely interrupted. It wasn’t a prevalent problem when I went to see it, but when it happened I noticed it right away.

    Speaking of flow, there were moments when the show slowed down a bit for me. The first half feels like Tommy is just going through bits and performing instead of living in the piece. There were a few times when it felt like he was just saying the same thing, just in a different way. Also there are two moments when Tommy plays with the television ideas: when they talk over each other and when Happy is chased by Angry into another TV. This is a good gag, but it’s one that only needs to be done once.

    This production though did make an improvement in the performance department. My biggest issue with the original production was that it didn’t feel genuine to me. It seemed like Tommy was telling us what we wanted to hear in regards to what he was going through instead of telling the truth. However today, he really lived in the piece and I bought it. I credit that also to the space, which added this layer of connection and intimacy between Tommy and the audience. I think that added a layer to the stakes and brought his believability up to grander heights.

    “LYLH” is a good show, but I think it is still one that needs work. Dealing with grief is a universal event that everyone is going to experience in their lives, whether they like it or not. In “LYLH” we feel the emotions we’ve all felt but through the eye of someone else’s specific experience. It looks like Tommy is still working through his grief through this piece and it’s interesting to watch. I got bits and pieces of the genuine anguish and confusion that he is going through, but not all of it. There’s still a part of me that wishes there was more honesty between him and the audience. I know he is capable of such truths and I more of that today than I ever did before, but I still haven’t seen it all.

  2. LYLH is a one man show of sorts written by and starring Thomas Karner. It is without doubt one of the most unusually presented autobiographical pieces I’ve ever seen. Even though the play has no other actors, Karner does not have a shortage of conversation partners while onstage. Five prerecorded clips of Karner, each personifying a different emotion, play on screens mounted to the background, engaging in seamless dialogue with each other and with Karner “in the flesh”. LYLH shows that, as disparate as one man’s emotions might be, they can all be compelling points of view.

    LYLH opens as Karner wakes up from a nightmare, the classic dream where the dreamer falls from a great height and wakes right before hitting the ground. This dream is especially terrifying to Karner since he has just lost his mother to cancer; if she’s not there to catch him anymore, who will be? As he struggles with planning his mother’s eulogy, his emotions spring alive and butt heads—Anger, Loneliness, Fear, Curiosity and Happiness (set apart by different haircuts and motifs of clothing color), with Sadness invisible but present all around him. The real Karner on stage represents Confusion, and he struggles to find which way to turn when his life is changed forever.

    I have not experienced death to the same magnitude it has impacted Karner’s life, so I can only imagine how difficult it was to pull such personal emotion to the surface and present it to a packed theater. There are moments of levity, such as Happiness’s constant goading of Anger, as well as serious reflections on what are presumably actual experiences from Karner’s life. It’s easy to applaud his bravery, as well as his regard he holds for the positive influence his mother’s had in his life. The direct power of the material and Karner’s commitment to his performance were so genuine that half the theater seemed to be wiping away tears by the end. I can only imagine that the other half was not far behind!

    Its tender emotional core aside, the technical aspects of LYLH were also quite solid. The video segments were synched perfectly with each other, an essential component in convincing the audience that the emotional apparitions were living, breathing segments of Karner’s personality. The technical presentation wasn’t without issues, however. Perhaps it was just the switch to a new venue with a different sound system, but I feel like a more precise speaker mix would have made it easier to discern which of the emotions was speaking. During quick back-and-forth exchanges, I wasn’t sure at times where I was supposed to look.

    The ending of LYLH seems a little abrupt, which makes sense in a way; it very well may have felt artificial had Karner moved forward out of grief too quickly in the show. Perhaps in ten or twenty years Karner will be able to produce a sequel to this show chronicling his life after this particular chapter. I would personally be interested to see how his decision to live by his mother’s words impacts his future. Thomas Karner ends the show by stepping out on stage in a tye-dye t-shirt with the show’s title boldly stamped on his chest. All of the colors and, thus, all of the emotions have blended together into a bright, wild, happy mix. As powerful as the end result is, the strength it took to get there is the truly impressive part.

  3. Even before the lights went down for Thomas Karner’s one man show entitled LYLH (short for Live Your Life happy) this critic was wondering what the audience’s response would be. Having seen the show previously during its run at Fitchburg State University last fall it was interesting to see how this play which Karner wrote himself in addition to acting in it, would stand up to an audience that did not know him or his story as the show is based off of true events in his personal life. Right from the start LYLH manages to pull the audience in, intrigue them,make them laugh and by the end of the show has them reaching for the tissues. The play deals with the heavy topic of losing a loved one which is relatable to almost everyone and not only asks certain philosophical questions that often arise when someone we love has died, but offers a message of hope and encourages you to keep going even through the darkest of times. It is set on the day of his mother’s funeral at which Thomas is supposed to give the Eulogy. He is visited by his conflicting emotions about her death which manifest themselves on TV screens showing different versions of himself. Throughout the play He manages to deal with each one separately before piecing them together into someone who is as he puts it “genuinely happy”.

    Tech was a big part of this production and as can happen from time to time there were some malfunctions such as one screen was not working properly so the emotion of sadness was only heard and not seen. For anyone in the audience who knows the show there may have been a moment of confusion as they try to figure out who Karner is talking to because of this technical glitch. There were also moments in the show where the emotions were all speaking at the same time, the effect was good but for those who actually want to hear what is being said by the characters it’s hard as all the sound seems to blend together coupled with a slight delay between sound and video.

    As far as acting is concerned there were times when Karner’s emotions seemed to have more emotion then he did. I understand that is part of the characters problem in the play but the actor could easily find more shades in his emotional palette other than the two extremes he shows the audience. While on the subject of acting Thomas’s projection was good for the space provided there was no trouble hearing him and he had good reactions to the various versions of himself whether they be positive or negative in addition to his good portrayal of the emotions themselves. However the use of diction and slowing down when speaking would have only made this show better. It was not to the point where he could not be understood but his words and speech had a slight tendency to run together and overlap at times with whatever emotion he was feeling overshadowing his words.

    There are some positive things to be said about the show however, such as whomever decided to place this show on a smaller stage made a good call as this change created a much more intimate atmosphere between the audience and the show. Thomas does not have a first entrance as he is onstage asleep right when the audience is walking in he completely ignores this fact staying professional and in character from the very start of the play to the very end even turingin over in his “sleep”. None of the negative things mentioned above really impacted the performance and despite these hiccups Karner manages to keep going, driven by his passion for this production which is clearly evident in his performance. Complete with added content that was not present in the first round of the show LYLH will take you on an emotional journey (no pun intended) tug on your heartstrings and leave you standing on your feet by the end of the performance.

  4. I have some reservations against a current trend of using film projections in live theater. One of the main reasons I go to the theater is for the sensory experience of being with live actors. Too often, productions use prerecorded film as an economic shortcut to avoid building an extra set or having an actor who must be present every night. If a play does use film, it must be imperative to the artistic aims of the piece for me to accept its presence. Luckily, Fitchburg State University’s new one-act play, “LYLH”, displays a highly original use of film that supports a tender story of personal suffering.
    “LYLH” is a one-man-show, or a seven-man-show, depending on the way you look at it. Written by and starring undergraduate student Thomas Karner, the play accounts the emotional turmoil of a man coping with a recent trauma. Six screens reveal pre-recorded footage of Karner exhibiting distinct emotional states of his characters, all interacting with each other and the live actor. It was impressive that the six films, which each run in real time throughout the entirety of the drama, were timed so precisely to facilitate Karner’s dramatic interaction with “himself”. I did not catch a single moment of awkward editing one might expect from a project requiring such precision. At one point during the performance, I even thought the films might actually be live actors who look like the main performer standing behind screens designed to appear to be film projections. This obviously wasn’t the case, but it speaks for the quality of the design that I even stopped to consider that ridiculous notion.
    The play also demanded a lot of work from its actor to be believable. It’s one thing to play scene with another actor, but Thomas Karner must create a lifelike sense of human interaction with six television sets. Even more impressively, he comes off as completely present in the concurrently-running videos, which he, of course, made without the luxury of having anyone off which to play. There were a few moments where it felt like he was unrealistically playing an emotion instead of an action, such as one point in the drama in which he is consumed by anger, banging on the floor in shrieking pain. It’s a tough thing to avoid in a play so concerned with the nature of emotional states. But aside from these few instances, Karner plays his drama with a grounded feeling of earnestness. There’s a surprising and compelling sensation of seeing a character who begins so understatedly blasé and evolves to exhibit terrific emotional highs mostly rooted in that same grounded reality.
    Yet technical effects and earnest acting are almost fruitless without an effective text, and this play’s autobiographical story palpably resonated with the audience’s heartstrings. Despite the complexity of the storytelling mechanics, the plot of the play is rather simple. We see the main character reflect on his tragedy and confront his inability to access his emotions during his grieving. Karner uses simple, vivid accounts of his memories to trap us into his mind, stirring descriptions of being at a loved one’s deathbed that will resonate with a sense of universal human pain. The memories lead up to a final monologue, in which there were audible tears coming from multiple people around the theater, including myself. Usually when I’m crying in the theater, I find myself doing so alone, but here it was clear that many people in the audience were even more effected by the play than I was.
    I think we felt an awareness that Karner was telling an autobiographical story of his own journey, and so as we cried for the action on the stage, we were crying out of genuine empathy for a person we’d never met. It was a powerful realization that this was more than a play, a sort of experimental coping tool for the real life Thomas Karner. I think of St. Augustine’s famous criticism of theatergoers who guiltily feel better about themselves for giving easy and useless empathy for fictional characters. Here is something subversive and effective, a piece of theater that arouses genuine empathy using such a strange, uniquely theatrical technical device. It’s a riveting experience to see theater that goes beyond fiction like this.

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