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Paul Mecurio’s Permission to Speak – Actors Temple Theatre, New York

Writer: Paul Mecurio

Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers

One of the most underused, and perhaps under-experienced, words in our culture? Sonder. The realization that everyone one passes/interacts with has as vivid and complex a life as themselves. For New Yorkers, the constant sharing of space tends to cause us to mentally isolate ourselves, to disengage. Other people become obstacles, traffic, demons who steal the last outlet at Starbucks. The human connection can easily be lost in the navigation of everyday life. We’ve lost our sense of sonder.

Paul Mecurio, who openly (and hilariously) admits to being confrontational, has decided to depart from this notion of singularity and lean into the stories and lives of others. A former attorney, Mecurio knows how to listen and tease out details; and as a stand-up comic, he knows how to entertain a crowd. Combining these enviable skills, Mecurio has developed a brilliant experience. Rather than a traditional stand-up act, he selects audience members at random to come up onstage with him. He asks them a bit about themselves, and seamlessly transitions into letting them tell stories from their lives. Not allowing small details to be glossed over, he leans into tangents that blossom into stories of their own. 

With razor-sharp timing and a keen ear for a compelling narrative, Mecurio creates a dynamic, supportive, engaged community within the Actors Temple Theatre. He ties stories together and makes running jokes on the fly. Each performance is its own unique moment in time, as the audience makes the show. So though it’s challenging to paint with broad strokes, from the experience of the December 4 performance, an initially trepidatious audience is fully invested and engaged by the end of the show. Exiting the theatre, Mecurio stays to chat with the audience, who are speaking with each other like new friends, though they entered the space in their personal bubbles.

Paul Mecurio’s Permission to Speak organically brings the audience together and creates a true sense of community. With wit, charm, and acceptance, Mecurio helps guests dissolve their barriers. Leaving the theatre, one’s sense of sonder is absolutely restored. We all have our stories, and Paul Mecurio creates a fantastic way to help us share them with one another.

Runs until 30 January 2019

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The American team is under the editorship of Adrienne Sowers. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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