Waiting for Orson is an engaging and well-acted meditation on mysticism, madness, and the confusion between the two. Camped out in Penn Station, Tristan (played by Christopher Scott Leith) is awaiting the appearance of Orson, an extraterrestrial who has promised to take on the body of a tall, thin man, talk about hotdogs (that’s how Tristan will know the tall, thin man is actually Orson), and reveal the secret harmonies of the universe. Tristan calls his ex-girlfriend, a psychologist. She is the only one he can trust with the news of the upcoming visit. He speaks eloquently to her and others of the times the veil of the visible world has been lifted and he has seen into a deeper, more complex and more beautiful reality.
Playwright Ian Leahy makes use of some lovely, poetic language, and Director Rebekah Heldt paces the action well. Never is the play boring.
The script could use some tweaks, though. Building in more uncertainty about whether Tristan is mad or enlightened would enhance the tension and deepen the enquiry into this rich subject. As it is, Tristan is portrayed all too clearly as a schizophrenic off his meds. I felt for him but was not persuaded by his visions.
Since the play was designed to be performed in the round—a choice not really applicable to the Fort Fringe space, which has a vast majority of chairs in front of the stage, a thin row on the sides, and a handful in the back—opportunities to communicate clearly with the audience were missed. Especially with the noise of the nearby bar filtering into the space, it would have been useful to have the actors turned toward the audience (none of whom were sitting on the sides or behind the stage). Many conversations between Tristan and his friends and family take place by phone, but the actors were half-turned from the audience, cradling the phone in a way that muffled their voices. (Editor’s Note: The problems noted by the writers were corrected for the next performance.]
The acting was outstanding, and Waiting for Orson is a haunting and worthwhile look at madness from the inside.
Running time: 75 minutes.
2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Waiting for Orson’ by Ian Leahy,