‘Unwrapped: Life After Giftedness’ – No Present to This Gift

By Ernest Kearney  —  Kira Wallace has done some excellent writing here, filling her solo-show script about the woes of being “gifted,” with some extremely clever lines and even exceedingly poignant ones: “I always wanted to go home, but could never find it.” 

However, regardless of the cleverness of her writing, and how impressive it is that, at the tender age of eighteen, she’s penned and staged her very first show, the fact is when you get right down to it the show itself is for the most part a washout.  

The reason for that is entirely due to Wallace’s immaturity as a performer, which she has absolutely every right to be.  (She is only 18 remember?)

Wallace’s delivery is flatter than a slow raccoon crossing the 405 at rush hour and about as emotionally uninvolved as a woman who didn’t get a check for $130,000 in advance from Donald Trump.  Certain performers can pull off that detached combination, such as Steven Wright and Buster Keaton but they are the exceptions that test the rule.

Most of what hampers Wallace is her youthfulness and the restricted perception that comes with it.  For instance, Wallace brings up Icarus who escaped from ancient Crete on wings fashioned from beeswax only to plummet to his death when his wings melted after flying too near the sun.   Wallace questions why he didn’t fly at night.[1] 

Ah, the myopia of modernity. 

Don’t get me wrong, Wallace is bright as a small nova, but she’s also a theatrical tyro and that dims her shine significantly.  For example, at one point she opines that people don’t connect emotionally via the stage.  Really?  Well, so much for Aristotle and his Poetics

The reality is that an audience will follow any journey if lured along by a trail of emotional breadcrumbs.  Wallace doesn’t supply these, hence there is no journey and no real narrative; just an awful lot of words. 

The program notes describe this show as Wallace’s “autobiographical tragicomedy [that] reflects on the loneliness, tomfoolery, grief and absurdity of growing up in a culture of exceptionalism.”  As six of the terms in that statement depend on emotional foundations, Wallace was setting herself up for failure.

What’s described in the program notes is a solid story, one that’s worth telling, but Wallace squanders the wit and pathos of her script by not playing the emotional underpinning of her writing to engage the audience.  And sadly, when a performer is numb from the neck down it tends to reduce a solid story to a lecture. 

bronze ribbon - Fringe Festival

Fortunately, Wallace still has time to learn.  (She is only 18.)  My Rx is for her to attend more theatre and Fringe Festivals than, I suspect, she has, study the works of Hal Holbrook, Will Eno, Alan Bennett, Spalding Gray, and George Carlin.  Then try again next year.

Jamie Sanger is credited as directing.  I suspect he’s gifted too.

For the cleverness, a Bronze Medal.


Unwrapped: Life After Giftedness playing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2023
  Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre (SFS Theatre mainstage) in Hollywood.

Added Performance Date: Friday June 30 2023, 7:00 PM

For Hollywood Fringe Festival Details, Unwrapped: Life After Giftedness Show Information, and Tickets Click HERE.

[1] Because my dear, in the pre-Edison world he would have been flying blind into a void of solid blackness.

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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