Here Lies Henry
A grave examination of the art of falsehood
|Interrobang Theatre Project presents|
|Here Lies Henry|
Review by Keith Glab
The double entendre titled play Here Lies Henry was first produced in 1996, with Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor also performing the role of Henry Tom Gallery II. Interrobang Theatre Project ends its second season with Michael Moran reprising the role of Henry that he undertook when the theatre company first launched in 2011.
Henry is a self-proclaimed liar who is charged with telling the audience something we don’t already know. He finds this difficult, contending that all people basically go through the same set of experiences. There are nevertheless several profound flies of wisdom caught in his proverbial web of lies. He categorizes lies into eight different types, uses the Garden of Eden story as proof that truth is the opposite of bliss, and pegs optimists as the ultimate liars.
The play makes extensive use of repetition despite only running for about an hour. This serves a couple of purposes. It helps the audience sort out what is a lie and what isn’t. It also helps us understand our role in the story; as it turns out, Henry is not addressing just an ordinary audience. It doesn’t always underscore the most important things to know, however, as certain repeated phrases are primarily comedic while a few key points are only said once.
Michael Moran turns in a superb performance as Henry, playing the nervous energy of a compulsive liar very honestly, oxymoronically enough. He shows tremendous range, seamlessly maneuvering from fear to braggadocio to contemplation. Perhaps most impressively, for a show that is basically just a man in a suit talking to the audience for an hour with no lighting changes, no music, and minimal blocking, the audience does not get bored. Moran is completely engaging – even engrossing – as this sweaty little fibber.
Yet truth be told, Moran is a little young for the part. Understanding that the play is set in the 90s with references to Johnny Carson, “Friends”, and CeCe Peniston, I don’t think Karen Black in Airport 1975 would have been a seminal experience for someone who is as old as Moran looks. More importantly, Henry is a wizened character who seems to have had a wide range of experiences. For him to be portrayed by someone as young as Moran doesn’t quite fit with the motif of time used throughout the script.
One of the cleverest aspects of this play is the way that the audience is duped into making certain assumptions without even needing to be lied to. Henry references a body in the next room, but never identifies whose it is. We assume that it’s Henry’s lover early on – but is it? After all, our only information comes from this untrustworthy source. Because of that, everyone who experiences Here Lies Henry will come away with a slightly different interpretation of what is actually happening. You may want to see this play multiple times with different companions, getting a unique perspective each time.
Here Lies Henry continues through August 12th at Intuit, 756 N. Milwaukee (map), with performances Wednesdays-Sundays at 8pm. Tickets are $15, and are available online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at InterrobangTheatreProject.org. (Running time: 1 hour, no intermission)
Photos by Greg Owen-Boger
Michael Moran (Henry)
behind the scenes
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