The Honorable Herbert Peabody written and performed by Kirk McGee; directed by Corey Atkins opens with a series of physical comedy gags. These jokes prime the audience for 70 minutes of laughing at-- discomfort. McGee uses humor to lessen the sting of the heavy topics he covers. He plays Joe, the staff member in charge of running the new memorial site to Herbert Peabody at his alma mater’s campus. Joe speaks directly to the audience as his first tour group, sharing both his first-time jitters and complicated emotions regarding the person being honored. This #metoo era play discusses the ethics of legacy in the wake of sexual scandal.
While many of the jokes had the audience in a fit of giggles, the physical gags at times felt over the top. These moments made the more sincere moments hard to buy into. McGee smartly uses comedy to help tackle difficult topics. However, in the end, I craved more serious moments. I wish McGee added in beats that allowed the audience to feel the weight of what he was saying, instead of distracting with beats of clowning. It is a difficult tightrope to walk: figuring out how serious vs. how funny to keep the tone while discussing assault. Overall, the piece felt in need of more reverence, especially considering it is a show about sexual violence against women, told by a man.
It is admirable to make art in response to troubling issues in the news. Political art has been tantamount in American History. This show not only fits into the cultural zeitgeist around sexual assault but also embraces the lack of solutions and answers in the wake of the assault. We watch Joe confront his guilt and shame over minimizing the experience of his friend’s assault. In the end, there is not much resolution. This ending is fitting considering the lack of resolution surrounding these topics in real life. Those interested in the ways #metoo affects bystanders would find this show entertaining and impactful. However, sexual assault survivors might struggle to watch the show due to the lack of reverence in the show when discussing assault, as the piece could feel triggering at times.
McGee not only utilities innuendo and wordplay but also engages in broad physical comedy. It is clear he knows what he is doing. McGee holds the audience in the palm of his hand for the entirety of the show. He excels in captivating and engaging his audience, a difficult feat for a full-length solo show.
"The Honorable Herbert Peabody"
Written and Performed by Kirk McGee
Directed by Corey Atkins
March 2 - March 5, 2022
The Chain Theatre (312 West 36th Street)
CARMEN BURBRIDGE is a Brooklyn-based actor and writer, originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. They have worked with New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse and The Farm Theater. It is her mission to create a convergence of hearts and minds in an effort to expose underrepresented stories and make the world a better place. They are passionate about trauma informed laughter, play and community.