The Untitled Sam Mullins Project, starring the man himself, Sam Mullins, takes the audience on a comedic trip through the a few of the truths that have led Mullins to our stage at the Ottawa Fringe. Apparently the secret to comedy really is truth, at least in Mullins’ capable hands.
The set is simply a stool; the lighting, straightforward; there are no sound cues to speak of. It’s all very spare and… Fringe-y. This is an undeniably great choice, since Mullins’ subtle magnetism as a performer fills the intimate space to bursting.
Mullins doesn’t give the energetic sweating performance that sometimes characterizes solo shows at the Fringe; rather his pacing is impeccable. Mullins tells his stories with a sort of earnestness that is rare to find from actors or comedians, and the humour flows naturally from the stories’ circumstances. It’s really quite endearing.
The script in this production is also very strong. Mullins carries on a conversational tone throughout the performance, which lends itself well to audience interaction and dealing with the unforeseeable events that inevitably accompany live theatre. The play’s narrative encompasses a collection of four distinct stories, held together by their shared relevance to Mullins’ “untitled project.” They are, essentially, the truths that led him to the stage before us now.
As individual stories, they are everything you could want in this sort of show: by turns outrageous, ridiculous, heartbreaking, and poignant. And for the most part, Mullins brings them together to serve his over-arching narrative.
This is also, however, where the chief weakness of the script lies. It seems to me that this is the story of why Sam Mullins occupies the precise place he does right now in his life and this moment on the stage, and to this end three of the four stories fit together perfectly, whereas the fourth (Life is Fleeting) bears only tangential relevance. While it’s a very interesting and poignant story, and told very well, it seems to be missing a paragraph and a half of conclusion to bring the lessons learned back into the flow of the larger story. With a few tweaks (making this story’s relevance and impact on the Sam Mullins psyche a touch more explicit), the play would fit together wonderfully, and take another step towards the excellence it brushes against at present.
Check out The Untitled Sam Mullins Project. You won’t regret it.