The lights rise, and we see a naked man traversing an invisible tightrope. The man is Jeff Riberdy, and trying to stay on the tightrope is his metaphor for making it as an artist in New York City. For the next hour, we learn how Mr. Riberdy made it to the Big Apple, and how he found his place in the world as an actor and a model. As a child, he was abandoned by his biological mother and left in the care of his father and stepmother in the town of Killeen, Texas. In high school, girls (and the one out gay guy) told him he was “hot,” which led him to want to become a model. He dropped out of junior college ten years ago, and moved to Manhattan to pursue this dream. Mr. Riberdy’s “Model Recall” is an exploration of the self in all of its different forms. At the mere age of four, while living with his biological mother in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he subsisted on a diet of beer and cigarettes, provided to him by his uncle. In high school, after being told to bulk up if he wanted to pursue a modeling career, he closed the door to his first dream: becoming a Major League Baseball player. And when he made it to New York, he didn’t last a week as a bopper at Abercrombie and Fitch‑and yes, that job is exactly what it sounds like. Mr. Riberdy finally decided to pursue acting when the late, great William Esper complimented his performance of a 45‑minute scene as a washed‑up alcoholic Irish actor from Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” Not only does Mr. Riberdy explore his search for purpose, he also devotes a good portion of the hour to defining himself sexually. He tells us about several relationships he’d had with women, and getting too excited during his first attempt at having sex. He was a male cheerleader in college, and performed shirtless at gay nightclubs. No matter what, you can’t help but identify with Mr. Riberdy. It’s hard to find your place, identity, and purpose, especially in New York. Though the basic theme of Mr. Riberdy’s show is perhaps overused in autobiographical solo pieces, he tells his story with the finesse of a trained actor. As Mr. Riberdy is an underwear model, he is clothed to varying degrees throughout the show. In scenes in which he is most sure of himself, he is at his most dressed. And at his lowest or most questioning moments, he is as close to nude as possible without actually getting there (the full nudity was brief and only at the beginning). The illusion of seamless transitions was broken, however, when the lights would sometimes come up a bit too early. Ultimately, Mr. Riberdy put out an impassioned, cathartic performance, digging deep to bare his soul.
“Model Recall” Performed and written by Jeff Riberdy Directed and co-written by Joe Gulla October 10 at 7:30 PM Photo credit: courtesy of the production 2019 United Solo Festival Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
MIKEY MILLER is an actor, writer, and tutor based in Jersey City, NJ. He received his BA in English with a minor in theatre arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Since then, Mikey has acted in off-Broadway and regional productions and worked as a freelance writer for publications such as StageAgent and ShowTickets.