I got to see a special preview of Jon Stark‘s upcoming show The Insufferable Spiteness of Beaver. Based on the show’s promotional material, I kind of didn’t really know what to expect. Having now seen it, I’m excited to share what I experienced and why folks should (or should not) go see this performance. But I’m kind of not going to tell you what to expect.
The Insufferable Spiteness of Beaver
Stark is a standup comedian. The show was born out of his material and consequently it looks like standup. But it’s also powerful and poetic storytelling, with just a pinch of therapy and confession. It’s funny and shocking and heartbreaking.
Promotional material for the show describes it as “ten stories about a long list of animals”, which made me think that it was an anthology of tales stitched together around the theme of animals. That’s not what this is. It’s about a lifetime of rage and shame and fear and hope and ambition and empathy, and it’s about the important roles that animals have played in that life.
And let’s not forget that it’s funny. Stark is very smart and no matter where his stories go, he brings his sharp sense of humor with him. As the show proceeds, each sly reference becomes more than just a good gag. “Knowing things” becomes a significant personality trait. And the more the audience gets the jokes, the more complicit they become in the world of “knowing things.” It’s one example of how the script builds a complex vocabulary of ideas and images.
I need to mention a couple of warnings. If you are considering bringing kids to this show, don’t. It is very much for an adult audience. That being said, if you have kids in your life, seeing this show might be a good inspiration to have some conversations with them. Also, the content of this show is challenging, and potentially downright alienating. It’s got an emotional core that will be familiar to anyone, but if you are the sort of person who might be shocked and upset by things, you are going to be shocked and upset.
Aside from that, you should go see this show, even if you kind of don’t know what to expect.
The Insufferable Spiteness of Beaver can be seen Thursdays and Fridays at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, February 5th – 13th. Each performance features a guest stand-up comedian prior to the show. Check out the Bryant-Lake Bowl’s webpage for information about tickets and reservations. In case you’ve never been, the BLB serves their full menu right inside the theater. Very tasty.