“Sixty minutes until showtime,” a woman announces to our main character, Joe, who is getting ready to perform on stage in front of a large crowd for the first time in ages. Joe made his living doing blue collar work like building fences with his father and fixing jukeboxes, but he wasn’t satisfied with being an “average Joe.” Acting and singing were his passion in life, but his anxiety always marred his career path. In order to relieve his tension before performing for us, Joe tells us about his life. Makes sense.
Most of Joe’s stories feel like they’d be a bigger hit at a small party than a nearly hour-long solo performance. Most irritating is that the stories rarely connect to one another. Whenever he digresses from his experiences as an actor or his struggles with anxiety, it feels like a non-sequitur. One moment he’ll be talking about his father, a no-nonsense, fast-talking, tough-loving dad you’ve likely seen in more movies than you can count, and the next he’ll be performing a skit on stage at his high school. Near the end of the performance he mentions giving his son some inspiring advice, but we didn’t even know he had a son. We didn’t even know he had a wife!
Joseph Corrao lays on a New Jersey Italian accent incredibly thick when talking business on the phone with a man named Mario. Mercifully, Corrao quickly eases up on the Italian-American caricature and slips into a more natural manner of speaking. He’ll let rip the occasional “fugg outta ‘ere!” at maximum volume, but by that point it feels more – as Joe’s acting coach would put it – organic, and gets a laugh. In terms of physical acting, Corrao casually changes from work attire to a formal suit fit for the stage. Make sure you’re fully prepared to see a grown man take his pants off.
At the end, we finally get to hear Corrao sing a jazzy tune. His singing is reminiscent of Sinatra, as it starts intimate but progressively grows more triumphant. This is where Corrao’s real talent lies, and I wish we heard more of his voice throughout the show. If each of Corrao’s memories were capped by a musical number we’d have a much stronger play on our hands.
“Average Joe” is a string of anecdotes meandering toward a somewhat satisfactory conclusion. If you see this show, you’re getting exactly what’s advertised: an average Joe talking about his mundane life. But like every ordinary face you see out there, chances are big they’re hiding a great talent you weren’t expecting.
“Average Joe” Written and Performed by Joseph Corrao Oct. 2 at 7:30pm Director: Clark Middleton Assistant Director: Ben Becher Photo: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
CHRISTOPHER POPPLE is a Monmouth University graduate and budding reviewer.