Life Insurance began as a single character monologue for Offstage Theater’s Barhoppers series in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2003. It was performed by James Scales and directed by Betsy Tucker. James and Betsy reprised it for Best of Barhoppers in 2008.
I added two other characters in 2010, wove the monologs together, and performed the piece under the direction of Matt B Weir for a run at Magnet Theater. Last summer Jen and I, working with director Boomie Pedersen and Nelson County’s wonderful Hamner Theater took it to the Capital Fringe in Washington, DC, and the New York City Fringe (FringeNYC). Here are some of the reivews:
Joel Jones captivates and entertains in his one-man show Life Insurance… This short, witty and smart drama draws out laughter every twenty seconds, while delving deeply into the minds and lives of these characters…
Joel Jones, however, walks the fine line of morbid comedy with delightful ease in his solo performance, Life Insurance… Jones, even throughout the serious motifs of the piece, gave straight-faced remarks that had the tendency to garner wild laughter from the audience. His droll comic delivery was a hit, but don’t let that undersell you on Jones’s contemplative themes.
[O]ne week into this year’s Fringe, it’s my favorite thing that I’ve seen so far… Jones manages to create three distinct and remarkably whole characters… He has a great gift for naturally including unusual details that seem like throwaway character notes, but that then become vital parts of the story later on.
All three characters are performed with detailed precision in physicality and vocal choices. It is a treat to see Jones switch between them quickly and cleanly while endowing each one with their own fully invested emotional journey. The writing is also very good—peppered with humor, heart and profound observations on life and death.
From Aline Reynolds for the Villager, Chelsea Now, and Downtown Express:
Jones masterfully switches between the three characters every few minutes, managing to create a steady rhythm of narration as each of these stories become intertwined… As a solo performer portraying more than one character, Jones succeeds where so many have failed — because he’s especially adept at using his vocal dexterity to bring out John’s diffidence, Wade’s effervescence and Steven’s constant apprehension.
A beautiful article by Nancy Colasurdo, a columnist for Fox Business.
Overall it spoke of the prisons we create for ourselves, the small ways we can make our current lot better and how good fortune or disaster can be around the next bend.
Finally, one of my favorite lines from any review ever, is by this blogger:
This is a show that seemed to end with a whimper, but it’s the whimper of a mutt that followed me onto the subway, into my home, and perhaps even delayed my sleep.