“Like a Rock Thrown into the Mississippi”
“The Young Life and Troubled Times of Reuben Hall” is a one-man show co-written by Jeph Scanlon and Philip blue howl Hooser. It’s directed by Hooser, read and performed by Scanlon, with a musical selection by singer-songwriter Lucille Louise. The piece, loosely based on Reuben Hall’s actual life, reveals the thoughts and actions of a young man coming of age between 1980-1995.
This Reuben was quite a character (no pun intended). Growing up too fast in a self-proclaimed “rural ghetto”, he was exposed to—and engaged in—all the things that teens were supposed to just say no to: alcohol, drugs, sex. There was no shortage of drama in the story, but some of that drama never made it to the stage. Scanlon as REUBEN was often too staid in his recounting. (Granted, performers do thrive off audience energy, and this audience was rather small.) The more successful moments were when Scanlon was performing without a text or when he was reading poems. The love of verse is apparent in his delivery, and the actor immediately became freer as soon as he wasn’t tethered to his binder. But so much of what happened to REUBEN involved other people—girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, his older brother, a police officer… It would have been great to see those stories told with multiple players, even with double casting.
There’s a lot to compete with at KC Fringe. For fourteen days we are inundated with an artistic deluge of performances that oftentimes shock and awe. “The Young Life and Troubled Times of Reuben Hall”, while an interesting story, just didn’t quite make a splash.