Plays are often described as labors of love. TITLE AND DEED was a labor of love, sweat, endurance and understanding. Four years ago, after the play's bravura entrance onto the New York stage (from Ireland where Will Eno created it with Irish actor Conor Lovett and his wife, director Julie Hagerty Lovett), (and six years after performing Ego's THOMPAIN), I read the script, was bowled over by it, and started the application for rights process.
And thus began four years of applying and being turned down. My regular contact with Samuel French did gain some explanations ï¿½ Eno was reworking the script, they were thinking of another NY run.
Then in Fall, 2016, I applied once more, with the longest lead time I'd requested ï¿½ a June, 2017 run. Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but the response this time was "Yes. And Mr. Eno wants to talk with you."
And thus began the process ï¿½ with months of lead time, a slow steady dive into the script; an assembly of the small but mighty design team and appropriate playing space; and, happily, conversations with the playwright.
The phone calls with Mr. Eno were encouraging, enlightening, and very, very valuable to the work. One imagines that most playwrights are well represented, personally, by their work, and Will is just that ï¿½ sensitive, modest, and unfailingly perceptive. The opportunity to talk with him will remain a theatrical highlight for me. His response to our work and its results were consistently positive.
As Director Sarah Whitney (who had lived with the script as long as I had) and I readied the performance, Bess Moynihan (who'd seen the 2016 revival of THOMPAIN and fell in love with it) pitched in with a beautiful lighting treatment, based on variations of a piece of art by Tom Friedman at the St. Louis Art Museum that Sarah had spotted, and felt perfect for TITLE AND DEED. And an elegiac curtain song was added, arranged by friend Amy Greenhalgh (who sat it one night for Will Bonifiglio for our LITTLE THING BIG THING show) and played by Amy and Jeff Hoard.
Our space was perfect for the show. Avatar Studios welcomed us once again, and the infinite sweep of their sound stage housed this great work.
The run of the show was good. Very appreciative audiences and critics. Small numbers in the audience, but that is the risk with producing a show in the summer in St. Louis ï¿½ a town which busies itself with baseball, BBQ and movies during that time ï¿½ but also with producing a show now anytime here ï¿½ 40-50 theatre companies and seemingly a new one every other week are siphoning off the relatively small theatre aficionados in town.
KDHX Public Radio
'Title and Deed' meanders pleasantly among topics great and small, impermanence, and love
by Tina Farmer
June 13, 2017
The Midnight Company has gained a reputation for finding and bringing to life the stories of interestingly offbeat characters in odd and unfamiliar situations. Such is the case with Title and Deed, a story about a man seemingly trapped at an airport. The short show, presented without intermission, is curiously lulling and siren-like in its pull.
Will Eno's "monologue for a slightly foreign man" is a warm, wandering journey that gently reminds the audience we are all just passing through this earthly plane. That life is best when you love and allow your self to be loved. That you should fell free to wander aimlessly, but don't stay away too long. Trepidation, determination, and fascination share space in the chatty man's rambling talk. Sometimes actor Joe Hanrahan falters as he searches for a world, other times he becomes so passionate he loses control of the subject matter. Or so it would seem. No matter the detour, he consistently finds his way back to the moment.
Under the direction of frequent collaborative partner Sarah Whitney, Hanrahan lures us in by creating a curious and complex character with a compelling, if not always clearly purposed, story. With intricate and detailed threads weaving in and out of focus, Eno and Hanrahan seem in perfect consort. They practically hypnotize the audience with language, accent, timing, and pauses. Those pauses of Hanrahan are well timed and deftly played. Whether searching for a word, a memory, or to have a short chat with an audience member, they are gloriously rich in sub-context and innuendo.
Hanrahan ambles on to the stage carrying a small bag and looking around with a somewhat confused expression. He greets the audience as if he half expected us to be waiting for him, but is nonetheless surprised. In a rambling one-hour monologue we learn quite a bit about the man, his mother and father, his loves, and the mistakes he's made in life. Occasionally stumbling over his word choice and our customs, it's clear the man isn't from "here;" without saying so directly, he even suggests he's not from this planet or plane. What's not clear is whether the man has been sent here on a mission or if he's just passing through on a visit.
The sparse set, designed by Bess Moynihan, takes advantage of the "seamless wall" at Avatar Studios to blur the horizon, an effect that reinforces the sense of being nowhere specific, but somewhere in between. As the monologue continues, the minimal lighting design slowly begins to further blend the floor and wall. Is it possible that we're all in limbo? Is Hanrahan the angel of death? Or have I just been sitting around the airport waiting for my flight for so long that the world, punctuated by Hanrahan's gentle, rhythmic voice, is hazy. You may feel a part of the time and place without precisely knowing when or where.
Hanrahan's personification ensures we're thoroughly interested in the man's story even if we never quite understand why, and there's a sort of comfortable confusion to his demeanor that instantly engenders sympathy. He describes customs of his homeland -- like reverse weddings and terrible Saturdays -- that pointedly fail to align with our day-to-day realities, all the while espousing that there is no finer state than loving and being loved, an idea that leaves most of the audience nodding in agreement. His most important point however maybe his caution that we "don't get too lost, for too long."
Title and Deed, running through June 24, perfectly pairs playwright Eno's fabulous wordplay with Hanrahan's gift for interpretation and personification. The Midnight Company once again delivers thoughtful, intimate theater that entertains and provokes. Though we may never fully realize the character's primary purpose, his story is delivered with simple eloquence that strikes me as vaguely important and definitely worth further thought.
'Title and Deed' is a Smart New One-Man Show About Loss
by Paul Friswold
June 14, 2017
Will Eno's one-man show Title and Deed is part monologue, part mystery. It's rife with clever wordplay, which is delivered by a lone philosopher preoccupied with his own wanderlust. The more he talks, the more you get the feeling he's not wandering so much as he's running away from home. It's an unusual show, one that approaches its topic like a wary animal, skirting around it only to circle back again.
It's a prime vehicle for Joe Hanrahan, St. Louis' reigning king of the thinking man's one-man show. It's no surprise that Hanrahan's own Midnight Company would mount it with himself in the lead. It's also no surprise that Hanrahan would nestle into the discursive role like a hand in a glove. Still, there is something at work in this production that feels like an exorcism — if not for Hanrahan, definitely for his audience.
The unnamed protagonist walks into the performance space carrying a valise with a cut-off mop handle laid across its opening. Behind him is a white wall marred only by prismatic whorls cast by the heavy-duty lights. For the next hour he talks about home — both the physical place and the psychic sense of it — and occasionally brings out a treasure from his bag.
There is a definite arc to the man's conversation, which begins with the friendly plea, "Don't hate me, if you don't mind," and repeated promises that "I'm not really this gloomy, it's just my voice." His probing questions about this new place he finds himself in are answered by his own explanations of the customs of his home; it's different than here, but also the same in many ways.
Avatar Studio's back wall gently curves into the floor with no sharp angles, so the shadows cast by our protagonist take on fun-house distortions. It's as if we're seeing many versions of the man ... or perhaps he's left a little bit of himself behind in his former stops, and they'll never catch up to him.
What has caught up to him recently is regret. He explains that he moves around because he holds out hope that a change of scenery will change him. The memory of a lost chance at love leads into his recollections about the deaths of his parents. With the hint of a smile, he offers, "Maybe you're doing what I'm doing — making something into something else, and then killing the first thing."
In the hands of a lesser actor, this gnomic dialogue could lull you into glassy-eyed torpor. Hanrahan spools it out like Theseus with his ball of twine, leading us into the heart of the labyrinth. When the man draws his mop handle, we've found the beast's lair. He sets his jaw and his eyes fix on his secret foe as he lashes his right thigh with his weapon. A pause, and he crashes his sword against his thigh again. "This is for her!"
Except what I heard, sitting in the audience, was, "This is for him." Hanrahan dedicated the show to his late son Travis, who died in February. But I felt my own personal history echo in those words. I was sitting in one of those shadows that Hanrahan's figure cast on the back wall, beating myself up for a dead sibling I couldn't save and never mourned, lost in the memories of a home that no longer exists.
And then Hanrahan, or Will Eno, or one of those shadows, smiled that queer half-smile and signed off with the good advice, "Don't stay lost for too long — they stop looking for you after a while."
Wordplay is The Order Of The Day in Midnight Company's 'Title and Deed'
June 13, 2017
Will Eno is a master wordsmith and Joe Hanrahan of The Midnight Company is a master storyteller. So this one man show, “Title And Deed,” is a marvelous hour or so with wordplay and a bit of mystery that draws you in like an ant to a picnic.
The forlorn but happy- or is he?- “foreigner” wanders on stage with a bag and announces we are in an airport. He is traveling, as he so often does- or does he?- and decides to impart some wisdom as he waits for his next destination. The reason there are so many questions in this description is because he has so many questions. In fact, a recurring question he seems to be fascinated with is “What is it all about?” He manages to keep us guessing by questioning himself- and us- as he rambles through stories of hope and disappointment and the quest for commitment.
He jumps from subject to subject but often returns to an earlier subject as he talks and even interacts with a few members of the audience. He describes himself as “unhomed,” a word he has evidently made up to describe his trek from one destination to the next- sometimes with no thought in mind why he’s going to this place or that. But, as a philosopher of sorts, he manages to keep us intrigued and waiting for the next pearl of wisdom to fall in our collective laps.
deas from his past- his younger days- include a lesson he learned from wandering away from his mother- “don’t ever get too lost for too long.” This advice seems to serve him well in present day as well. The quintessential philosophical question may come late in the play when he offers an off-hand remark- “In some rooms, no corner is corner enough.” The more you think about that one, the more complex your life becomes.
As the master of the one-man play, Mr. Hanrahan has all the right moves and inflections- knowing just when to pause- even for many seconds at a time- as if he is pondering his next move in this chess wordplay he’s playing with his audience. It’s a brilliant performance that not only astounds, but tugs at several emotions along the way. We’re used to that with Joe Hanrahan’s volume of work, but this one has the overwhelming script of Will Eno to impact the performance even more.
Sarah Whitney has tweaked his monologue with expert movement- it’s just him on stage- and a sense of what this script is trying to impart. Bess Moynihan has designed the simple set in this film/photography studio that successfully throws shadow images of “the foreigner” along the back and both sides of the background, enhancing the power of the words and movements. Amy Greenhalgh has provided musical arrangement and her expertise on violin along with the tuba- almost comic in the context- of Jeff Hoard. Elizabeth Henning has provided stage management and has also taken the photographs that enhance this review.
Words- there’s nothing like them when they are written in beauty and wonder like they are in “Title And Deed.” Will Eno’s script and Joe Hanrahan’s performance make a winning combination that is nothing short of dazzling. It runs through June 24th. Find The Midnight Company online and get tickets now for this amazing show and amazing performance.
St Louis Post Dispatch
The place is key in Midnight Co.'s 'Title and Deed'
by Judith Newmark
June 16, 2017
Sometimes when we talk about “the theater,” we mean an art form. And sometimes we mean the place where it’s performed. Whether it’s a gorgeous arts palace or a sleek modern venue or an improvised space that was built for another reason, the space affects the whole tone of the production.
Two shows have made that point very clearly: the Midnight Company’s “Title and Deed” at Avatar, a production and recording studio, and Theatre Nuevo’s “Acronyms” in the back yard of Milque Toast, a tiny restaurant. The mood at each intriguing performance came in large part from its environment.
Joe Hanrahan, co-founder and artistic director of Midnight, has done as much as anyone in St. Louis to demonstrate that you don’t need a theater (the building) to create theater (the art form).
Midnight has performed at all kinds of places: a bar, a front porch, an abandoned brewery and, more than once, at Avatar. With its vast, bare white backdrop, Avatar makes a perfect setting for “Title and Deed” — playwright Will Eno’s elegiac, one-man piece about a traveler who has just arrived among us.
Hanrahan plays that man, of course. He’s made one-man pieces kind of a specialty, usually — and once again — under the direction of Sarah Whitney.
We don’t know where the unnamed man is from, or why he’s left. But he tries to reach out to us — not his countrymen, but his companions of the moment, at least.
As he describes his travels — the confusing lines, the unnerving customs procedures that make you feel like you’re about to tell a lie even though you aren’t — Hanrahan depicts an engaging character with a slight, hard-to-place accent. He wants to charm us; he wants to engage us. He compliments people in the audience on what they’re wearing, or on their smiles.
Gradually, he tells us about the place he’s from and its unusual customs. His account of courtship, where men attempt to play instruments they never learned to woo their sweethearts, and women struggle to sing along with the noise, is about as good an account of romantic miscommunication as we’re apt to encounter.
The man also talks about death a lot — but whose death? The death of his country? Of his own mother? His grief, obscure but palpable, shadows the performance as effectively as Bess Moynihan’s thoughtful lighting design. By the end, when the man appears as a lonely figure dwarfed by clouds and water, we know we aren’t exactly at a play. Hanrahan is performing a poem, sad and intimate.
Midnight Company's 'Title and Deed'is Curious and Poetic Existential Exercise
by Mark Bretz
June 21, 2017
Story: A solitary man, referred to as an 'immigrant,' walks into a room where an audience is seated. His shadow is cast long on either side of him as he stands in front of a wall filled with wavy lines. He drops his bag and walking stick and begins to speak to those gathered.
He says that he isn’t from here and thus, he isn’t home. He notes, however, that he isn’t homeless in the traditional sense. He’s more in search of answers to this great hurly-burly known as life and has stopped by to share his observations.
He has a way with words, which actually intrudes from time to time as he pauses, considers how a particular syllable sounds, and then begins again. Or, maybe, he’ll hear how he is speaking, wonder about his throat and its physical condition, and ponder aloud the beauty in the art of human communication.
Occasionally he’ll delve into his own background, which is a melancholy one for the most part. He isn’t looking for pity, though, or even commiseration. He simply is thinking aloud and ruminating about what it all means. Perhaps we can help him. Perhaps not.
Highlights: Actor Joe Hanrahan and director Sarah Whitney collaborate cohesively on this meandering little existential exercise in The Midnight Company’s curious and poetic presentation of a Will Eno story.
Other Info: Artistic director Hanrahan and his Midnight Company obtained the local rights to this one-man, one-hour show, sub-titled Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man, penned by New York playwright Eno, which originally premiered off-Broadway in 2012. Hanrahan previously has twice performed another of Eno’s efforts, Thom Pain (based on nothing), which also reveals Eno’s flair for language and his cogitations on existence.
There is minimal action in this 60-minute conversational travelogue, which covers a great deal of territory in the world of language if not a geographic landscape. Hanrahan and Whitney are greatly aided by Bess Moynihan’s intriguing lighting design, which accentuates the character’s solitary state with looming shadows on either side of the set as well as a surrealistic background inserted by Moynihan.
Also abetting the performance are violinist and musical arranger Amy Greenhalgh and tuba player Jeff Hoard, whose solo performance of a well-known Bacharach/David tune concludes the performance on a precise note.
The character is lonely but not obsessively so as conveyed by Hanrahan. He revels in making little references to a former lover, recalling to the most minute detail aspects about her that caught his fancy and warmed his often aching heart.
Hanrahan is especially effective when he stops his soliloquy to concentrate on the physical aspects of his voice, listening to the sounds that emanate from within which shape his character’s phrases. It’s idiosyncratic but also underscores the eccentricity as well as sharp intelligence of this seemingly foreign character.
Whether the character is an “other” or a lost soul or an empty vessel seems less relevant than what he has concluded about his species. Hanrahan sometimes makes surprisingly violent gestures, such as hitting himself repeatedly with the stick, but also conveys whimsy when he shows us a Superman box lunch that is among the speaker’s simple possessions.
Who exactly is this guy? And what precisely does he hope to accomplish? He jokes directly with the audience every once in a while, he rapturously recalls fond moments in his own life, but then his thoughts once again fade into sadness. Whitney moves Hanrahan around the modest stage like a solitary thought darting throughout a troubled mind.
Eno is an admirer of the works of Samuel Beckett, and this play has more than its share of absurdity. One can’t help feeling some empathy, however, for our quirky host in this no-man’s-land of a setting. This Title and Deed remains both mystical and mysterious, but worth perusing.