Climbing in and out of small spaces, doing back flips and clown acts, falling down stairs on purpose - it seems like Lorenzo Pisoni abuses a lot more than humor in his one-man, autobiographical show, "Humor Abuse." With a lifetime of circus training, including two years spent with Cirque du Soleil, Pisoni must be used to the body twisting, acrobatic feats, but they still come as nerve-racking, albeit humorous, shockers to the audience every performance at American Conservatory Theatre. Of course, his acts are not nearly as frightening as Pisoni's admitted nemesis, the balloon, which he uses throughout his act.
Using various props and clown acts as demonstrations of key moments in his life, Pisoni incorporates everything from his father's circus story to his own coming of age journey into this captivating play.
Pisoni was born a clown. Although his father had the name, "Larry," Pisoni reflects that the man was always Lorenzo Pickle the clown at heart, and, thus, Pisoni grew up admiring his father and relating to his father through his own acrobatic training. At age two, he entered the ring at his parent's circus to do his own adorable version of the circus acts. Pisoni reenacts that moment and many others with hysterical accuracy.
At age six, Pisoni's father presented him with a contract, and Pisoni willingly signed it. Larry soon had his son balancing hats on his clown nose and practicing tripping over imaginary objects. Today, if a parent locked up a child in a trunk, child services would likely get involved, but Pisoni grew up inside a circus trunk - it was, in essence, "Humor Abuse."
Pisoni makes it clear, however, that he does not consider his childhood one of abuse or lost innocence. He looked up to his father. He wanted to join the act. Even after his parents divorced and left the circus, Pisoni continued performing at age 12, taking over his father's acts and creating his own. In many ways, "Humor Abuse" functions as a tribute to the elder Pisoni, the man who left random hats laying around the house and sent his son to school with a plastic banana for lunch.
With incredible ease and perfection, the young Pisoni recreates both his father's and his own circus acts on stage. The A.C.T. production marks Pisoni's homecoming to the city where it all started: San Francisco, where his parents founded the Pickle Family Circus. Behind-the-tent black and white photos give audiences additional insight into the circus' history, and fun clown music by Randall Craig along with colorful lights hanging in the auditorium help set the mood for 90 minutes of pure entertainment.
With the help of co-creator and director Erica Schmidt, Pisoni entraps audiences with his heartwarming stories, convicting delivery, non-stop punch lines and clown tricks galore. Pisoni leaves audiences with smiles on their faces and, much like Pisoni literally does throughout his show, reason to roll on the floor laughing out loud.
By Lorenzo Pisoni and Erica Schmidt
American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco
Presented in Association with Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through February 5, 2012
Photo: Lorenzo Pisoni with an old photo of his two-year old self. Historic photo by Terry Lorant. Production photo by Chris Bennion.