The (in)discreet charm of Daniel Kitson’s ‘Keep’ at Studio Theatre

Stand-up comedian and monologist extraordinaire Daniel Kitson enjoys a devout following in the UK and in Australia. He first made his reputation at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he won a Perrier Comedy Award and a Scotsman Fringe First. His limited engagement at Studio features the first US performance of his new work, Keep. It is a rare opportunity to see this talented artist and sample his idiosyncratic brand of humor.

Daniel Kitson in 'Keep.' Photo courtesy of Daniel Kitson.
Daniel Kitson in ‘Keep.’ Photo courtesy of Daniel Kitson.

The stage features a desk, a chair, and a large filing cabinet. From the top, Kitson confides his plan; to catalogue the contents of his entire house and make a list of it. He has hundreds of index cards, an anomaly in this digital age, and he reads them out in a sequence which seems without rhyme or reason—but then you realize that certain drawers are about the living room, others about the study, and others about the garden.

He is attractively modest and offers everyone the opportunity to leave if they so desire. Rumpled, with a beard, in jeans, he has a zest for life which is infectious despite his occasional protestations to the contrary. Besides reading from the cards, he offers epiphanies about life and love. At one point, as a series of cards read “Brick. Brick. Brick,” I felt that I was in the middle of a demented combination of the poetry of Gertrude Stein and an episode of Antiques Roadshow minus the actual items.

On love: he recommends falling in love with someone who is already sad. He also notes that living with someone you are not in love with is “fine.” Both suggestions seemed to meet with the approval of the audience. He occasionally mentions old girlfriends, and references creating a salubrious environment in which a woman can “take her top off.” He apostrophizes upon living alone, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the apparently endless amounts of artifacts you can acquire.

The audience was highly amused and went out into the chilly night laughing and talking. He will especially appeal to those who enjoy slightly racier versions of playwright Alan Bennett’s BBC monologues. Kitson’s cult popularity in Britain is well-deserved, and although the pace of the evening varies, he draws us back in again and again to his small, full world.

Running Time: 2 hours, with no intermission.

Keep plays through December 1, 2019, at Studio Theatre’s Mead Theatre – 1501 14th Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets call (202) 332-3300, or purchase them online.

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Sophia Howes
Sophia Howes has been a reviewer for DCMTA since 2013 and a columnist since 2015. She is a playwright and director. An early draft of her play Southern Girl was performed at the Public Theater-NY, and two of her plays, Rosetta’s Eyes and Solace in Gondal, were produced at the Playwrights’ Horizons Studio Theatre. She studied with Curt Dempster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where her play Madonna was given a staged reading at the Octoberfest. Her one-acts Better Dresses and The Endless Sky, among others, were produced as part of Director Robert Moss’s Workshop-NY. She has directed The Tempest, at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Amphitheatre, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Monongalia Arts Center, both in Morgantown, WV. She studied English at Barnard, and received her BFA with honors in Drama from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where she received the Seidman Award for playwriting. Her play Adamov was produced at the Harold Clurman Theater on Theater Row-NY. She holds an MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, where received the Lucille Lortel Award for playwriting. She studied with, among others, Michael Feingold, Len Jenkin, Lynne Alvarez, and Tina Howe. Her father, Carleton Jones, long-time Real Estate Editor and features writer for the Baltimore Sun, inspired her to become a writer.

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