The Wake 1 The Wake 2

If it seems at times that everyone in Hollywood has his or her own story to tell (or at least an hour-long version of it), it’s a notion reinforced by the plethora of solo performances vying for attention at each year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, meaning that when a solo performance arrives that is not an excuse for navel-gazing (sorry, make that self-reflection), it’s an event.

Ben Moroski’s The Wake is such an event.

It’s not that Moroski doesn’t have his own story to tell. He does, and told it to awards and acclaim two years back in This Vicious Minute.

This time round, however, Moroski’s one-man show is a work of fiction, an honest-to-goodness play that just happens to star a single actor, though two characters feature majorly in Moroski’s latest.

Moroski plays high school sub Pete Harrisburg, who having taken a certain Bob Claypool’s six-week intensive in “Life Illumination Through Solo Performance,” has decided (per the class description) to illuminate his own life and light his way to a brighter future by staging his own solo show.

It’s “Pete” we first meet in The Wake’s hilarious opening segment, one which parodies to perfection just how godawful a solo performance can be, both in Pete’s writing (overwrought) and acting (both wooden and histrionic), with as hilariously clichéd a “lighting design” as lighting designs can get.

Starting out as Pete’s angry reprisal for a love gone sour, The Wake takes a turn for the serious when Pete goes up on his lines, prompting him to improvise, and the story he tells is a shocker, beginning at a dance club and ending up at his apartment with a woman who fulfills his every need for unconditional love because she just happens to be …

Moroski’s performance is electric, aided by his own clever, funny, acidic script and Nick Massouh’s incisive direction. The tongue-in-cheek lighting design is an added treat.

The Chance Theater’s recent production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play proved how fine an actor Moroski is when playing opposite others. The Wake makes it equally clear that he can mesmerize an audience on his own.

–Steven Stanley
June 23, 2014