Rock Bottom, Lion and Unicorn

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I find Bottom (the literal and figurative ass from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) fascinating. The character is a study in a certain masculine lack of self-awareness that was clearly as evident in Shakespeare’s time as it is today. But equally, while being clearly insufferable to his fellow characters, the role must be delivered with enough charm and wit for the audience to continue to root for him.

As such he makes a great and challenging character for any actor to play. In Rock Bottom, which was written, directed and starred Charlie Day, Bottom comes to the fore. The premise is a showing of Pyramus and Thisbe (Shakespeare’s comic send up of a play within Dream) where no one but Bottom has shown up. But, in keeping with the ego as Shakespeare envisaged, the show must go on, and Bottom is undeterred, performing solo.

Day is a charming performer and a good actor to boot. He carries the show extremely well, working with the audience and the space to fully embody the spirit of Bottom in all his vainglorious glory. The hour speeds by pretty well, and while there are a few close to the bone jokes (I found the song about Titania shaded just a little to far on the distasteful side for me) overall Day’s charisma carried it through.

At times, however, I felt that Day was trying to do too much with the hour. The range of emotions on display were not necessary or particularly in character for Bottom. He showed a little too much awareness of the tragedy of Bottom, that the character himself wouldn’t necessarily employ. This meant that on occasion the show veered into feeling more like a showcase for Day’s – undoubted – talent, than a narrative play.

Ironically, I think this would have been a strengthened show if Day had a little more of Bottom’s self-confidence. It would have been a braver choice to stick with the comedy and work to maintain the human elements of Bottom within that framework. Day certainly has the chops and charm to do this.

Overall this was an enjoyable hour and definitely spoke of more to come from Charlie Day. I look forward to watching him grow as both a writer and performer from this extremely promising beginning.

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