The world premiere of Will Eno’s Gnit opened at the 37th annual Humana Festival at Actors Theatre Sunday night to an obviously appreciative, if not somewhat puzzled, audience.
That’s Gnit. The “G” isn’t silent.
Peter Gnit, main character and namesake of the title, is at one point asked about the origin of his name. “It’s a typo,” he replies, in a nod to the source material for Eno’s play, Peer Gynt, an 1867 play by Henrik Ibsen.
Gnit opens with Mother (Linda Kimbrough), sitting in her tiny cabin in the woods, recovering from a recent hospital stay and full of snarky comments about her less-than-perfect and perpetually late son.
When son Peter (Dan Waller) finally arrives, he tells a fantastical tale of the reason for his tardiness, weaving a believable and poetic web until Mother bursts the illusion by commenting that she has heard the exact same excuse…last year.
It is in these first few moments that the audience realizes that this play is going to take them on a wild ride. And it’s going to be fun.
Peter Gnit, world-class narcissist, is in search of his true self, and will stop at nothing until he has fulfilled his quest. His egotism knows no bounds; the people he bruises and batters along the way are just incidental casualties.
Even on his mother’s deathbed, or rather, death floor; as a lawsuit against her for Peter’s exploits left her without a bed, windows, or door, Peter can’t quite find compassion for her situation. After an almost tender moment, he inanely bounds away again.
In bizarre fashion, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland meets O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Peter encounters a myriad of individuals throughout the course of his life, each of whom, like Peter, lacks an internal filter and says just about everything he thinks, leading to numerous laugh out loud moments.
Danny Wolohan, who takes on a plethora of townspeople as one uniquely schizophrenic individual, is hilarious. His performance alone is worth the price of admission.
Gnit is oddly entertaining. And being an observer to Peter’s self-centered journey through life makes even the most egotistical among us seem saintly.
But for those who choose to dig a little deeper; to go beyond the witty delivery and clever language into the soul beneath the surface of the play, the projection of Peter Gnit’s existence isn’t just funny; it’s a reminder that no one can live a life all by himself.
Gnit, by Will Eno, is directed by Actors Theatre Artistic Director Les Waters.
Performances of Gnit continue through April 7 on various dates and times. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the Actors Theatre box office at 502-584-1205.