It is a rare occurrence when what you are watching onstage is also actually occurring onstage. Okay, that makes no sense, so let me explain.
Typically, when you are watching a play it is entirely comprised of verisimilitude. That means ‘life likeness.' It’s just a fancy word theatre people use to mean that it feels like you are watching a real event unfold in real time. But, it’s actors — acting. Even if the show is an autobiographical show, typically it is performed by an actor re-enacting moments from their lives. They usually do a pretty good job. "A Pain In My Aspergers," the one-man show I saw at the Aurora Theater, is not typical. It is Atypical in the very best way!
Asperger’s Syndrome, now controversially designated as part of the autism spectrum, is a developmental disorder signified by difficulty with social interaction and nonverbal communication and accompanied by limited and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Actor and musician Jeremy Ebenstein explores his life to this point through story and song. We follow him through his funny, uplifting and frequently heartbreaking story.
With a combination of his original songs and dialogue, Ebenstein chronicles his tumultuous path while dealing with the familiar topics of bullying, love and depression. All things neurotypical individuals are familiar with, but his unique take on these common everyday struggles reveals a fresh take that illuminates them in a new and beautiful way.
Which leads me back to my point. You can hire an actor to play a person with Asperger’s syndrome or a person with Asperger's syndrome can take to the stage and bring you the actual struggle. In this case, the audience is confronted with the bravery of an actor in a very real way. A beautiful, powerful, stunning way.
Ebenstien is strong and vulnerable throughout. As he stands before us letting us in on his failures and triumphs, we know we are in the presence of an event that could be either at any given moment. He falters with a note on the piano before us like any musician sometimes does, but here it deepens in significance. He soars in his storytelling ability and we feel lifted with him. The colors of emotion he uses here are brighter and more intense and one is submerged in their overwhelming honesty.
"A Pain in My Aspergers" is closed now. It was only a one-night performance, however Ebenstein has been touring the show and will be performing the show again in October.
"A Pain in My Aspergers" at the Binge Fringe Festival Main Stage at the Santa Monica Playhouse at 3 p.m. Oct 20. Call 310-394-9779, ext 1.