November 8, 2012
I first became acquainted with the work of solo performance artist Tim Collins back in 2008, at the New York International Fringe Festival. His play A Fire as Bright as Heaven—in which he portrayed dozens of characters to tell an autobiographical story of the first several years of this millennium, starting with first day as a student abroad in London on September 12th, 2001—impressed me so much that I published it in NYTE’s anthology Plays and Playwrights 2009 and also on Indie Theater Now, where you can read an excerpt from it and learn much more about it.
Fire is driven by Tim’s deep humanity and curiosity. His new play, On the Outskirts of Everything, which debuted at this year’s United Solo Festival, finds the actor/performer still on a quest to get under the skin of his fellow humans. This time, rather than mining his own personal story, he follows in the footsteps of many solo artists before him to create a rich tapestry of individuals, each of whom is given a monologue to reveal himself to us within the show. Tim told me that this piece is kind of a nod to Eric Bogosian, and it is definitely structured like one of Bogosian’s solo plays from the ’80s/’90s. But of course Tim’s distinctive, warm, empathetic voice resonates throughout.
In On the Outskirts we meet six very different men, all (as the title suggests) on the periphery, trying to get back on track in a world that seems suddenly to be spinning too fast. There’s Zac, a guy approaching middle age who blows into his hometown to reunite with a buddy from high school who he hasn’t seen or talked to in more than a decade. There’s David, leader of an Anger Management class for parolees who is having troubling managing his own feelings of inadequacy. There’s Ian, who is painting his empty apartment while the love of his life stands just outside the door. And there’s Speed, who is waiting on line at McDonald’s, not quite ready to place his order because he hasn’t quite worked up the courage to talk to the young lady behind the counter.
My favorite character here, though, is Daniel, a young man of perhaps 20 who is struggling with the enormity of…well, everything…while trying to just get a beverage at a Starbucks. Daniel is given to malapropisms and his already tiny attention span is further diminished by the distractions provided by his cellphone. With this monologue, in particular, Tim Collins taps into the zeitgeist with breathtaking specificity and incisiveness. Daniel texts, takes pictures, and spouts running commentary about movies he doesn’t quite remember and political theories he doesn’t quite understand; every one of us knows at least one person like this troubled young man.
The sixth piece in On the Outskirts isn’t in the voice of a person but rather of a virtual being. Its title is “Google Search” and it’s oddly affecting.
On the Outskirts is a brilliant addition to Tim’s growing catalogue of solo work, which includes several pieces intended for teenage audiences on subjects like bullying and sexuality. I’m excited to have seen this newest piece, which will be coming to Indie Theater Now shortly, and hopefully will have an extended life in NYC and beyond.