Daniel Kitson is enviously entertaining.
In his new one-man show at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO, “The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church,” the British comedian — who takes on the roles of playwright, director and performer — commands the stage for 90 minutes with little more than a worn notebook as a prop, enveloping you in his torrent of wit and fantastical storytelling.
At turns hilarious, others touching, “Gregory Church” is a fictional tale of a suicide that gets postponed by life, and new, unexpected relationships that make that life worth living.
Kitson’s incredibly detailed script — he’s as focused on numbers and specifics as he is florid prose — begins with a bit of truth: three years ago, he was looking to buy a new house outside of London. From there, though, as he even warns us, the rest is fiction.
During one fateful day of house-hunting, the story goes, Kitson comes across boxes and boxes of letters, stuffed almost embarrassingly in an attic. They belonged to Gregory Church, a lonely, middle-aged man who one day decided he was tired of it all. Before he ended it, though, he set about writing 57 letters, some airing petty grievances, others tender farewells.
But the airing took longer than initially thought, and one day turned into 24 years, 57 letters into thousands of often banal, but sometimes poignant correspondence. Kitson’s “investigation” of these letters is the bulk of the tale, a quest he takes on partly out of boredom, partly out of a “pathological fondness for glimpsed life.”
The award-winning show — it was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe festival two summers ago — is as bare-bones as it gets. It’s just a bushy-bearded Kitson, dressed in what you may find him in at the pub — during Sunday’s show, he sported canvas sneakers, aged jeans and a plaid shirt — moving about the stage nonstop and spouting his witty script at as dizzying a pace as his, well, pacing.
Most engaging and amusing are the relationships Kitson’s Church forges with the least likely of companions — a lonely schoolboy who waits for the bus across the street from him; a bank teller he at first despises; a hardware store owner who sells him the noose which should have ended his life; and, most humorously of them all, a journalist from the local paper who received Church’s suicide notice, setting off years of curmudgeonly, yet friendly, sparring.
It’s a remarkable show, so vivid in its place and characterizations, and full of hope and charm — Kitson’s boyish, giddy enthusiasm in his delivery is particularly infectious — that you almost will it all to be real, or willfully forget that it’s not. Kitson is simply that good.
“The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church” at St. Ann’s Warehouse [38 Water St. between Dock and Main streets in DUMBO, (718) 834-8794], now through Jan. 30, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 4 pm. Tickets $35-$60. For info, visit www.stannswarehouse.org.