TheaterMania Logo

The Man Himself

Ami Dayan is fascinating in this monologue about religious extremism. logo
Ami Dayan in The Man Himself
(© Paul Aulgur)
There's an old show-business cliche that insists you should always leave them wanting more. I'm not convinced that's as wise as it sounds in theory after seeing Ami Dayan's monologue The Man Himself, which has been adapted by the performer and Mark Williams from British writer's Alan Drury's 1975 play. As far as the show goes, it's riveting; but I'm not satisfied that it doesn't have at least a few more rivets in it to keep the audience attached for longer than 55-or-so minutes. During that short time, Dayan not only silences astonished onlookers, he keeps them so quiet there isn't even a cough in the room nor a shuffled foot.

When Michael Ou's lights go up, Dayan, wearing a blue-collar uniform and work boots, is slouching ruminatively in a chair that serves as the play's entire furnishing. The solemn figure, identified in the program as Michael, works at Components and Supply, a South Denver company for which he works and where he's proud to be parts manager. In fact, he's known to hisco-workers as a little Hitler. He also mentions resentfully that his strict adherence to company regulations has intolerant colleagues tagging him with other lacerating epithets. "Faggot" is only one of them.

Telling his story, Michael begins talking uncertainly about the uniform he's got on. He owns two, he says, and makes a habit of washing them himself because when the company launders them for him, he doesn't always get his back. Sometimes, he gets someone else's uniform that may have dried gum lining a pocket. His fastidiousness begins to darken and sour as he discloses additional aspects of his life -- not the least of which is a failing marriage to a shadowy woman. He reports that she considers him "the most inconspicuous person I've ever met."

Lighting cigarette after cigarette and snuffing them out as quickly as he lights them, Michael's slow burn quickens, and it eventually becomes a smoldering rant about a frustrated, born-again-bent life. Building up to an evangelical-sounding excoriation of same-sex marriage and stem-cell research, Michael ends his diatribe with a cigarette-related true coup de theatre that somehow doesn't quite seem beaucoup enough.

What Dayan and his collaborators are after is defining what makes anti-social, often inconspicuous society members tick. Indeed, in this post-Oklahoma City, post-Columbine day, the show's creators want to get to the core of a domestic terrorist -- one who represents potential terrorists everywhere, whether political or religious or both. Yet, I think Dayan stops short of his goal.

True, his acting is impeccably subtle. Rising from his chair only once and only once raising his voice, he never lets up on the existential characterization. Indeed, Dayan offers a perfectly detailed, perfectly acceptable thumb-nail sketch, which is his prerogative. But I maintain there's more to be revealed about this disturbed Michael.

For example, the adapted script of The Man Himself has Michael repeatedly dropping to the floor to execute multiple push-ups, and holding up signs, and shows family photographs. Yet, Dayan, who is also his own director, has eschewed these stage directions and obviously chosen to keep things to a minimum, using an M&M's packet as his only additional prop. But maybe that isn't such a smart move. The something more so explicit in the script may have provided what I sense is still missing from this production.

Regardless of the show's flaws, Dayan is just as fascinating here as he was playing the highly athletic man in his adaptation of Dario Fo's adaptation of the Chinese story, A Tale of a Tiger. That solo piece, about a wounded warrior who befriends a tigress, was just the right length. But when the lights abruptly went to black on this one, I felt I had more to learn about The Man Himself -- and more I longed to see from Dayan himself.

Tagged in this Story