The Heffner Monologues
August 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11
“In a world full of Johns, I guess I don’t mind being known as the lesser Heff”. This line from solo performer John Heffner, estranged cousin of the famous Playboy founder is a complete lie. John “Heff” does mind being the lesser Heffner, in fact he minds being the lesser everything from son to actor to boyfriend to sexually attractive to popular. Well maybe lesser isn’t the right word. What Heff is really feeling is insecure on every front and that’s at the heart of his Fringe play, The Heffner Monologues.
Using a snapshot autobiographical format, John takes us on a comedic journey through the awkward and unsatisfying moments in his life that are intended to build into a coming of age and into your own type of journey. We get the story of John as a 7-year-old meeting his famous relative for the first and only time only to have the meaning of visiting the Playboy Mansion with all its debauchery and non-sexual playthings utterly lost on him. We learn of the botched first attempts at love and sexual encounters, most of which involve having huge erections at inopportune moments. We watch as John’s attempts at nudity in a play go horribly wrong when he decides to give it his all. And we see how John’s father’s alcoholism plunged his son into becoming a teetotalling social square that results in his being called “buzzkill” by most of his friends who only put up with him because of his famous last name.
All of these disappointments are played with comic intent, but both as a result of a fairly weak performance and some disconnected storytelling, I found the plot to be more pathetic than amusing.
Heffner has the bones of some very good writing in this show as the very funny and smartly plotted scene when he describes getting drunk for the first time illustrates. But unfortunately I don’t think his performance is up to the talent of his writing. The pauses are overly paused as if waiting for a laugh that never comes. The attempts at strong stage presence and comedy are at times painfully laboured and unnatural. Many of the scene transitions are jerky and disjointed. And while he certainly works himself into a sweaty frenzy with his physical performance, it feels forced and like it’s just trying too hard.
As I was leaving the show feeling underwhelmed, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have felt had I read the script instead of seeing the show. My inkling that I would have enjoyed it much more.
For the guys – You will probably find some giggles in the ‘geeky guy trying to make it with the ladies’ scenes and the naked play scenrio is amusing up to a point. But the funny is often overplayed in a performance lacking a strong performer. MAYBE SEE IT
For the girls – Sure it’s funny to get the guys take on first dating and sexual encounters, but you’ve seen better. Without a compelling actor, the scenes feel obvious in too many ways. MAYBE SEE IT
For the occasional theatre goer – It’s a lighthearted somewhat racy but still accessible play with a couple good laughs. You’ll like the Heffner connection and that may be all you need. MAYBE SEE IT
For the theatre junkie – With so many good solo first person stories out there lately, this is not one you need to add to your viewing repertoire. SKIP IT