Royally Unseen - Alan White
Royally Unseen – Alan White
Review by James Wilkinson
Royally Unseen is written and performed by Alan White. Directed by Pacale Florestale. Projection/Video Design: Alan White.
You can sometimes forget how little you actually need for an engaging evening of theater. When a production pulls out all of the stops with large casts, enormous sets and an array of stage effects, it’s easy to be dazzled. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the bells and whistles as much as the next patron. At the end of the day, though, theatre is supposed to be about human connection and all you need for that is a human, speaking clearly and honestly. Alan White’s one-person show Royally Unseen is a play that operates on that idea of simple human connection. You won’t have the bells and whistles, but you’ll have the chance of capturing something much more profound.
What is Royally Unseen about? It’s about Alan. If we want to get knit picky, it’s probably not totally accurate to describe this piece as a play. Really, it’s more of a Moth Radio-style storytelling event. Talking directly to the audience, Alan traces their adolescence up through college and on to adulthood, trying to make sense of all of the events along the way. There are sidesteps and detours along the way, but mostly the story focuses on their relationship with their parents and experience of growing up as an African-American child in a family with high expectations.
Intimacy is the name of the game, here. If you’re expecting to slink into the theater and make your way to the back, I have terrible news for you. You’re not going to be able to hide. You’ll be forced to engage (in a good way). Royally Unseen is being performed at the Green Room in Somerville which is already a pretty small performance space. When you cut it in half with seating, there’s not much room left. When you walk into the space, Alan is already on stage, waiting. As you take your seat, Alan will probably chat with you, acknowledge your presence, making the whole evening seem more like a chat with an old friend.
I happened to catch this show the night after seeing Hub Theatre’s production of Peter and the Starcatcher and taken together, the two plays made very different bookends to my weekend. Both are concerned with the act of growing up and moving on. Both use a fantasy framework to position their storytelling. Both examine the relationship between parents and children. The final image of Royally Unseen clearly situates it as a love letter to Alan’s mother.
The biggest strength of Royally Unseen, is quite simply, Alan. They’re an extremely warm and engaging storyteller that makes you sit forward and want to hear more. There’s a relaxed quality to their storytelling. You feel as though each word and each beat of the story has been carefully chosen. At times it also becomes the show’s weakness. Since the path is so carefully thought out, it doesn’t necessarily feel as though anything is being discovered in the act of performance. That extra spark that live performance can offer. And occasionally, crucial plot points can feel bit glossed over. This is minor quibbling, though.
I have to confess that I’m a Moth Storytelling Hour junkie. People fascinate me. They always have. For that reason, I enjoyed experiencing Royally Unseen. The act of active listening, of taking a moment to truly let someone speak and then digesting what they’ve told you, is becoming rare these days. Take the opportunity while you can.
Royally Unseen is being performed at the Green Room in Somerville November 3-18, 2018.
For tickets and information visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2208822436018160/