Humorist and storyteller Paul Strickland’s latest offering, Add Songs, Stir, is a big, yet satisfying departure from this performer’s normal realm of insightful and delightful storytelling. Rather than sticking to his usual fare of heartfelt stories based, at least in part, on his life’s experience, Strickland reveals the darkest part of his imagination in fictitious, borderline absurd stories. Yet, he uses this absurdist technique to craft a richly layered pastiche of story, song, gesture and rhythm that seems to comment on the post-post-modern nature of our society.
That assessment is informed by this critic’s attempt to make sense of her own intangible, indescribable emotional response to Add Songs, Stir. Strickland generates power from an intimate and vulnerable place inside of himself. He paints delicious word pictures with such directness. Each word that springs from his mouth seems like it was meant for your ears only. His stories are so compelling and evocative that they become your stories. And thus, his vulnerability becomes your vulnerability.
When taken as a whole, recurring themes, words and images bubble, creating a mystical steam of storytelling that envelops the audience. A simple hand gesture carries viewers from the story of a underwater city to a woman’s affair with a pane of glass. His word play pushes a duality of thought: as a young girl staggers down a beach and is in that moment staggering to a on-looking man. He elicits a sense of comfort from the idea of being at once whole and empty.
However, his show is rich almost to the point of distraction. We are inundated with his thoughts. And there is never enough time for them to fully take root, before they float to the surface and are popped by his next revelation.
In all, Strickland is the best kind of performer. He is gentle and clever, expressive and melancholy, with just enough humor to forge a real human connection with twenty people taking in his words. March 2 and 3 at IndyFringe Theatre.