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LORENZO: A Love Story

by | Jan 24, 2024 | Review | 0 comments

It’s always interesting when you’re won over by a show — completely won over — even after you’ve gotten off on the wrong foot.

The first movement of British artist Ben Target’s monologue Lorenzo didn’t engage me. Target’s career has mostly been in stand-up and, as he launches into this true-life story about how he cared for his dying Uncle Lorenzo, that’s the form that dominates. Theoretically, I can see how the approach might work: comedy is often a helpful ally to pathos. Here though, it felt flippant to me, alienated. When Lorenzo, who may have had a stroke, opens the door to his London home — and he’s naked — Target describes Lorenzo’s shrivelled penis as “a Tic Tac in a haystack.” That’s just ridicule, and we don’t even know Lorenzo yet, or understand anything about his relationship with Ben. (Ben is how I’ll refer to the character in the play.)

So I kept my distance.

But then a couple of important things shifted.

As the show became more grounded in its theatricality, I started to relax in its presence. There’s only one set piece and it’s brilliant: a carpenter’s table. Ben and Lorenzo weren’t blood relations; Lorenzo Wong, who grew up in Hong Kong, worked for Ben’s grandparents’ architectural firm and lived in the basement of the house they all shared. Ben flips up a panel that’s been concealed in the table: it’s the house, its rooms rendered in silhouettes, which Ben lights from behind with a desk lamp. It's storytelling magic and it makes sense: Lorenzo was the details guy at the firm, the one who designed the human-scale refinements.

Concurrently, the story deepens. Ben’s parents were harsh. He tells us that Lorenzo was the only adult he ever felt safe with as a kid.

And, as we find out, Ben is a vulnerable guy: as an adult, his comedy career was interrupted by a mental breakdown. Lorenzo is also vulnerable. His body fluids are frequently out of control. Ben does a lot of very hard-to-do cleaning up.

But there’s still a bond of outsider love. When Ben is caring for Lorenzo, they revive a game they used to play when Ben was a kid: Silly O’Clock, an hour in which they invent ridiculous things, like six-foot-long chopsticks you can use to feed other people. There’s failure. Anybody who has cared for an aging loved one, human or animal, will know how draining the day-to-day can be.

And there is honesty. As an actor, Target isn’t just naturally eccentric, he’s also emotionally transparent so, when he started to well up, tears also came to my eyes. I resisted at the beginning of Lorenzo, but, at the end of this generous show, I clapped loud
and long because I was so grateful for it.

LORENZO By Ben Target. On Thursday, January 18. A Soho Theatre production presented as part of the PuSh Festival. Playing at the Annex until January 20. Tickets.

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Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.