Epically heart-breaking, tremendously endearing, and painfully funny, Piccolo attendees take note, David Lee Nelson's Status Update is not to be missed. Nelson, a College of Charleston alum and New York City based stand-up comic, opened his one man show last night, and the result was a surprisingly delightful nugget of a play. Tucked in the Simons Center's tiny black box theater, Nelson began with a confessional video clip about the best gift his wife ever gave him — a blackberry and porn. "If GQ rated gifts from wives, that would be in the top ten," he says, when he emerges on stage clad in a tan jacket, jeans, and bowtie.
But that's one of Nelson's happier memories of the 10 years he spent with his now ex-wife who left him in March 2009. Using his intimate video blips juxtaposed against long-form monologues, Nelson paints a picture of a man wrestling with his reality and trying to find the funny under it all.
And he succeeds.
Nelson's pithy reflections on life provided a fantastic rhythm to the production, but it's the raw truth of his video clips that make the show worth seeing. Halfway through Nelson reminisces about making his wife's coffee. "I knew just how to make it. I knew the exact color she liked it with just enough milk," he says, and it's like he's poured the audience a cup of heartache. Then, just when he's pushed the attendees to the edge of melancholy, Nelson brings them back with more laughs.
Famed English essayist Charles Lamb said in 1885, "We do not go to the theatre, like our ancestors, to escape from the pressure of reality so much as to confirm our experience of it," and Nelson's production is the embodiment of that idea. Status Update may be the culmination of the past year in Nelson's life played out in jokes and tell-all soliloquies, but it's bits and pieces are a reflection of the reality in all our lives. As he pokes fun at himself and his failings, we see our own issues and can laugh at them.
Now, that's not to say all audiences will love Status Update, if you're a prude, stay home. If you're in a rocky relationship, perhaps don't bring the significant other, unless you want to spend an awkward post-production cocktail hour with your date. This is a PG-13 production, and if you can't handle discussion of sex, porn, drugs, or religion, I hear there's a Spoleto marionette gig you might like. If you are interested in laughing heartily and seeing one of the more creative approaches to a one-man show the festival has produced, then snap up a ticket to Nelson's production. You'll be posting "What a great show!" on your Facebook wall the next day.