Review: ‘The Presented’ at 59E59

A recurrent favorite at 59E59’s annual “East to Edinburgh” line-up, California native Chris Davis returns to New York with his latest original solo show The Presented, after debuting it last year in Philadelphia, where he is based, and before taking it to Scotland’s iconic Fringe festival in August. In it, he gives an extremely funny, poignant, and personal vision of what it’s like to be a “solo-y theater-y” indie artist, sardonically guaranteed to “make you never want to pursue a career in the arts.” But you’ll be oh-so thankful that he did.

Photo courtesy of 59E59.

Taking us on a whirlwind journey through his ever-active and brilliantly insightful mind, Davis conveys – in direct address to the audience and with frequent one-on-one interactions – the angst of being a theater artist, while working “a shit job” making popcorn at a movie theater. Under the direction of long-time collaborator Mary Tuomanen, he makes us see what he sees and feel what he feels through candid stream-of-consciousness revelations, visually perceptible descriptions, and expressive movements and mime, while going full circle from enthusiastic and energetic to enervated and disheartened and back again, all within the minimalist space of the black-box theater.

Chris Davis. Photo by Emilie Krause.

Throughout his wildly surreal imaginings, inventive ideas for his dream play (with high production values!), and nerve-wracking anticipation of auditions and meetings, Davis conjures haunting memories from his childhood and adolescence that foreshadow and parallel the fear and pain of rejection and negative criticism faced in his (and any artist’s) career, considers the pressure of struggling to remain authentic and independent while not earning enough income to pay the bills, and lauds the performers he admires (contemporary fringe artist Geoff Sobelle and 19th-century actress Adah Isaacs Menken – successful, but still largely unknown to the audience) for never selling out, when so many alternative festivals are now going for the big bucks, not the true fringe entertainment on which they were founded.

If there were ever any question that Chris Davis is THE quintessential fringe artist, The Presented proves beyond a doubt that he is. How much this extraordinarily talented, personable, and engaging artist can do with a bare stage, a dirty backpack, a simple voiceover (with an imposing announcement of “The Presented”), and a rightfully responsive audience is nothing short of astonishing and rave-worthy. He gets a rave from me.

Running Time: Approximately 40 minutes, without intermission.

The Presented plays through Sunday, July 21, 2019, at 59E59 – 59 East 59th Street, Theater C, NYC. For tickets, call (646) 892-7999, or purchase them online.