"A year ago, I lived in Chicago, and I saw a one-man show and thought 'Wow, what a great way to market myself!'" says John Brennan, star and cowriter of The Banana Monologues. It took about a year for him to develop the piece with friend and cowriter Jason Cooper from The Bottom Line sketch comedy group. The result is a show based on a true relationship story, featuring several different roles, all played by Brennan.
There's the main character Gus, the girlfriend Alexis, the Gus of the past, and several other characters, including the naughty metaphorical title character.
After winning readers' votes for "Best Comic" and "Best Actor" in Charleston City Paper's Best Of 2007 issue, Brennan has a lot to deliver. "Am I a better comic now? No. But people know who I am. But 'best comic,' 'best actor' — how do you measure that, anyway? It means I work hard, I'm a professional, I have some credentials."
He certainly does have some credentials. A member of local comedy groups The Measled Knights, The Bottom Line, Big Dicktionary, Fishing with Dynamite, The Sofa Kings, and The Have Nots! Touring Company, Brennan has also starred in local commercials and was one of the 12 finalists in the NFL's Super Bowl Ad pitch competition.
Brennan tested the first slices of Banana, which was broken up into 15 short stories, at Theatre 99 in phases. He first tried out four stories on an audience. That went over well, so later he performed 10 of them shaped into a chronological play. He brought Mary Cimino (whom he's known for years) on board as director in November of last year: "We wanted to make sure we got the female side." Cimino helped shape some of the female roles' dialogue and Brennan's female characterizations and helped keep the production in check. "We wanted to make sure it wasn't female-bashing," he says.
"All men are slaves to their penises," Brennan somewhat needlessly points out, which is both a theme of the play and an excuse that Gus uses to justify his actions. In typical guy fashion, Gus tries to keep his relationship with Alexis casual. "He wants to say it's just about sex," he says. "He doesn't want to admit they're in love, but they are." Even a show promising to cover "the best sex of one man's life — and all the shit that came with it" can have a sentimental side. —Jennifer Corley
The Banana Monologues • Piccolo Spoleto's Piccolo Fringe • $15 • May 26, June 2, 8, and 9 at 8 p.m. • (1 hour) • Stars at the American Theater, 446 King St. • 554-6060