Michael Burgos’s ‘Tiramisù’ is one hilarious trip

A local comic hero goes loco in Italy.

Tiramisù—the caffeinated confection from Italy—translates as “pick me up” or “cheer me up,” which makes it the perfect name for the hilarious new solo show Michael Burgos brought to DC Arts Center last weekend. “A playfully ridiculous romp through Italy” (as his promo aptly puts it), Tiramisù played to a packed house full of fans of Burgos’s first solo show, the sold-out 2015 Capital Fringe hit The Eulogy (which my colleague Ramona Harper called “delightfully wacko”). And the laughter was nonstop. I myself laughed so hard that like the titular dessert it felt like a coffee buzz and sugar rush rolled into one.

Michael Burgos in ‘Tiramisù.’ Promotional photo by John Schlia

Burgos, a Falls Church native, has been touring The Eulogy across America and abroad collecting goo-gobs of praise and prizes. He is an astounding talent. He just debuted Tiramisù in Colorado at the Boulder Fringe Festival, where it won for Best Solo Performance, and he’s taking it next to Athens, Georgia, then Australia and Mexico. Which is a pity because Tiramisù begs for a genuine run in DC.

Burgos is part mime, part clown, part zany, part goof-off. And he has perfected a unique comic persona that invites audience participation even as he himself participates in the audience’s responses and reactions. At each slight sound from the audience, some quicksilver smile or glance or twitch of his will register that he is sweetly attuned to us. And that instantaneous comedic reciprocity so completely takes us in and makes us laugh all the more that it’s as if we are at one with his wit.

Standing ovation for Michael Burgos in ‘Tiramisù‘ at DC Arts Center October 26, 2019. Photo courtesy of Paul Cassens.

The bits and sketches in the show are all loosely and loonily related to Italy and Italian tourism. For instance as the soundtrack of an airport boarding announcement warns us to “beware of pickpockets,” Burgos himself is randomly nabbing bags and purses—and the audience howls.

As though in Rome, he does a goofy riff on the Julius Caesar “Lend me your ears” speech, which soon turns into his butt talking—you had to have been there—and a groaner of a pun, “Lend me your rears.” This is followed several scenes later with Burgos pretending to be a priest placing imaginary “crackers” on people’s outstuck tongues and then passing out tiny plastic glasses of real wine. Several scenes later he’s handing out imaginary gelato cones to audience members who sensuously lick them. It’s all irresistibly nutty and one cannot help but play along.

Burgos prances and minces through a faux fashion show. He tosses around a floppy packaged pizza. He gets some audience members onstage crushing grapes. He cajoles another audience member into a street fight with a fake knives. He has a couple read from a script as Leonardo da Vinci while he becomes a bewigged Mona Lisa with gag bad teeth.

And there’s more. The audience can’t get enough.

Near the end, Ave Maria plays. At the sublime and ridiculous finish he sings uncertainly a silly song in praise of tiramisù. And the audience sings along and bonds with him like it’s some cockamamie kumbaya.

If ever this guy is in the vicinity, veni vici and vidi him.

Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.

Tiramisù was performed on October 25 and 26, 2019, at the DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW, Washington, DC. For information about future performances, visit Michael Burgos’s website and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About Michael Burgos
Michael Burgos is an internationally acclaimed writer and performer with a bent towards physically-based performance. In July 2015, Michael Burgos made his DC debut at the Capital Fringe with his first one-person show, The Eulogy. The show garnered raves; and Burgos went on to perform the show in 33 cities across 11 time zones. The Eulogy became a 12-time internationally award-winning solo performance, most notably winning Best Comedy at the 2016 Adelaide Fringe (the second-largest performing arts festival in the world).

Burgos holds a Diplôme from École Philippe Gaulier (Paris, France) and a B.A. in Theater from George Mason University, where he received the Chris Parsons Acting Award, the Greenspring Players Scholarship, and the Outstanding Achievement in the Major Award. In addition to studying with theater guru Philippe Gaulier, Michael trained in Washington, DC with master teacher Dody DiSanto, a teaching protégé of the late Jacques Lecoq. While at George Mason University, Burgos was one of the founding members of the university’s improv troupe, the Mason Improv Association.

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John Stoltenberg is currently interim editor in chief of DC Metro Theater Arts. He writes both reviews and his Magic Time! column, which he named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it, he explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees. Decades ago, in college, John began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile, his own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then John’s life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction essays, articles, and books and had a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg.

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