Theater Review: LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES (Theatre Asylum in Hollywood)

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by Tony Frankel on July 8, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

THERE’S LIFE IN THE OLD BOY YET

I couldn’t think of a better way to pop my Hollywood Fringe Festival cherry than with Steve Ochs and his solo outing, Life in the Middle Ages, which has rightfully extended its run. This show is a perfect example of why the Fringe is so important: in the glut of self-aggrandizing chronicles masquerading as one-person plays, an actor who really has something to say – and says it well – has an inexpensive opportunity to let us know he exists. If the product is good, it will be noticed, and the actor now has a marketing tool to keep the show alive. Of course, there’s a paradox: the Fringe can also make a phenomenon out of well-promoted debris. Fortunately, Mr. Ochs is quite familiar with paradox, such as the illogicality of aging.

Life-in-the-Middle-Ages Ken OchsHere’s an actor who is not trying to showcase himself, but offer us very funny insights (sometimes deep) about a subject that many of us would rather not speak about: middle age and the slippery slope into mortality. Mr. Ochs is not only shrewd, personable and funny, but he’s a crafty linguist. Although the veneer of the show is a stand-up act which breaks down the stages of grief regarding aging (denial, acceptance, etc), Mr. Ochs manages to deliver his perceptive musings with sincerity and humility – this also allows him to occasionally go off-book or riff with an audience member. I surmise that Mr. Ochs’ created this show to keep fresh his own sense of self-deprecating humor concerning maturation: by imparting his perspicacity with us, it reinforces his own beliefs that keep him youthful (and you gotta admit, kids, this guy looks great). It may be called theatrical re-gifting. On top of all this, the show is well-written by Ochs himself and packed with three-syllable words…and you gotta love a fine-looking man with a stellar vocabulary.

Life-in-the-Middle-Ages Ken OchsTwo things sealed the deal for my affinity for Ochs show: first, in-between segments, a delightfully well-written Medieval Fairy Tale is told by a sexy female voice-over artist, and I adore well-written stories. Second – and most important – Mr. Ochs risks alienating his audience by leading us through a guided meditation that is nothing short of profound. Normally, I  really don’t care for this sort of thing, but I’m not kidding, when this guy asks you to close your eyes, do so and the poignant pay-off will linger for days, if not longer.

Of course, this outing isn’t The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe and you may wish that it doesn’t feel quite so much like stand-up, but it is a much recommended show, especially for the over-30 set.

Oh, and thanks for the manscaping tips, buddy.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

photos by  Julie Weinhouse

Life in the Middle Ages
scheduled to end on July 29

EXTENDED TO SEPTEMBER 29

for tickets, visit http://www.plays411.com/middleages or call (323) 960-7612

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Luba July 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

If I didn’t want to see your show before now, this review left me salivating. Too bad for me I’m out of the country. Felicidades and Bravo! Luba

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brett woods July 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Well this is a sobering, funny take on what we have to look forward to as adults; things that your mother and father didn’t have time to talk to you about until you were ready. As a voice of clarity and reason, I could not think of a better person to tell you about the tragic truth of “Without life there is no death.” I would like to say, as a friend of many years to Mr. Ochs, that this glowing review is well deserved. His voice is a resonating sound. It cuts to the quick of what we are as humans. We have been brought up to push death into the outer eshlands. A place, where, many moons ago, kids had to walk through cemeteries to get to school. Death was a part of life, because the towns were so small that you could not hide it.

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