The sounds of the wedding march have the potential to send men into states of terror, and the man at the center of playwright and actor John Jiler's one-man show, Explicit Vows, is no exception to the rule. Filled with memorable characters, the counsel and wit of jack-of-all-trades Noël Coward, and incidental music as varied as Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" and Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights," the show is a tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit.
The resiliency faces the ultimate test moments before the start of a wedding ceremony, when the anonymous man recalls experiences with women whose love was unrequited. Through flashbacks, he recalls his coming of age at a time when Cary Grant was a matinee idol. He not only offers personal commentary but transforms into the larger-than-life men and women he resurrects. His recollections are sprinkled with feelings of disappointment and resentment, among others, which have shaped the man that he is at present. At the same time, he demonstrates that the past does not define the man but makes a stronger man out of him.
John Jiler delivers a strong performance. With originality and sensitivity, he explores feelings that all people have encountered. The director, Jeffrey Menaker, uses the black box theater to full effect, as Jiler's stage business transforms the space into different environments. Albert Ahronheim, who provides piano accompaniment, offers much-needed comic relief. Nina Rutsch's costume designs allow Jiler and Menaker to play a range of personalities.
In spite of all the trauma we experience, Jiler proves that laughter is the best medicine.
Through Sunday, July 13, at The Flea Downstairs, 41 White Street, (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111 (toll free), www.theflea.org.