Kevin Gardner is finding plenty of work to keep him busy in southern California these days. So why come back to upstate New York?
"There's something risky and scary about doing a one-man show, but it really is a unique experience," said Gardner, an East Greenbush native performing "Every Brilliant Thing" for the next month at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. "I thought maybe I should take that risk, and coming back home in the fall and seeing my 6-year-old niece sounded good. The timing has all worked out very well."
"Every Brilliant Thing," the creation of British playwright Duncan MacMillan, drew favorable reviews in 2015 when it was produced off-Broadway in New York City with British comic Jonny Donahoe.
"It's the story of a man who, when he was 7, had to deal with his mom's depression," said Gardner. "To deal with that, he makes a list about everything that's brilliant in the world; everything that makes it worth living. He keeps adding to the list as he grows older, and that's how the character engages with the audience."
Audience members won't be caught off guard. Gardner will be in the theater lobby before each show handing out pieces of paper to anyone willing to possibly become part of the show.
"I don't put them on the spot, and it's not like they have to deliver some soliloquy," said Gardner. "I just ask them if they might want to help me out. There's not a lot of interaction, but there is the opportunity to improvise and make things up. They'll feel like they're contributing, and it's a theater experience truly like nothing you've ever seen."
Gardner, or perhaps we should say his character, spends much of his time during the show in the aisles, not onstage. Curtain Call founder and artistic director Carol Max, who is also directing the show, sent the script to Gardner to lure him away from southern California.
"Carol seems to like new and different pieces, and that's not to say she discounts the classics," said Gardner. "She and I have been friends a long time. She came across this play, we talked about it on the phone for a long time, and then she sent it to me. She said I would love it, so I read it and it made sense to me."
"Every Brilliant Thing" will be Gardner's ninth production at Curtain Call, but he's also been busy in Los Angeles lately, making appearances in "Big Little Lies" on HBO, "Criminal Minds" on ABC, "Days of Our Lives" on NBC and "LA to Vegas" on Fox. He was also part of a new Netflix production, "The Politician."
"I spent 10 years out there after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and it was slow going," said Gardner. "I came home for a while and then went back in 2015, and things have picked up pretty well for me. I've worked on some real fun projects."
Also opening this weekend at Congregation Beth Israel in Schenectady is the Classic Theater Guild production of "Beau Jest."
The story of a nice Jewish girl trying to keep her WASP boyfriend a secret from her parents, "Beau Jest" was written by American playwright James Sherman and first performed in 1989 at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.
John Birchler is directing this production. Making up the cast are Paige Paddock, Michael Silvia, Jesse Braverman, Michele Marchese, Amy Birchler and Yash Thakur.
'Every Brilliant Thing'
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 17; performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: (518) 877-7529, or visit www.curtaincalltheatre.com
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild at Congregation Beth Israel, 2195 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Thursday and runs through Nov. 4; performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20-$18
MORE INFO: Visit www.classictheaterguild.com