One-man show tells it like it is

December 27, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to The Sun

At the age of 26, Josh Lefkowitz has already written and performed two one-man shows about his life, and is bringing his newest work, Now What? to Center Stage on Wednesday through Jan. 20.

Now What? -- which explores the performer's relationship with his girlfriend and his art -- is a sequel to Help Wanted: A Personal Search for Meaningful Employment at the Start of the 21st Century, his humorous take on his own job-hunting experiences.

Lefkowitz, who will perform the 85-minute show without a script or even notes, described Now What? as a "much more personal story," one that "goes to a deeper place of vulnerability."

His tale of coping with the temptations of success and his struggle to develop his career are both specific and universal, he said in a telephone interview. Most people can relate to the feeling of being pulled in several directions, he said.

Lefkowitz grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in acting and took writing classes. While still in college, he decided he wanted to be a performance artist like his idol, Spalding Gray, the famed monologist who died after jumping into New York's East River in an apparent suicide in 2004.

Like Gray, Lefkowitz intended to write and perform his own material. Most people smiled and patted him on the shoulder when he mentioned this audacious plan, he said.

After graduation, Lefkowitz moved to the Washington area and appeared as an actor on stage at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, the Everyman Theatre and Center Stage. In his spare time, he wrote.

In 2005, he accepted a part in Center Stage's Sweeney Todd -- as a stage hand who also wore a costume. The staff encouraged his writing ambitions, and in 2005, Lefkowitz performed Help Wanted as part of the theater's First Look developmental workshop.

"I often will describe that moment as my `a-ha' moment," said Lefkowitz, who said reading his work in front of an appreciative audience made him realize that "I must do this work."

Less than a year later, Lefkowitz was performing Help Wanted at Woolly Mammoth and Center Stage.

Now, Lefkowitz is bringing his performance of the next chapter in his still-young life back to Baltimore. The show premiered at Woolly Mammoth on Oct. 21 and ran through Nov. 25.

The story Lefkowitz tells in Now What? begins in his apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y., which he describes as "a great neighborhood, totally and utterly gentrified, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, it's great, it's great except for the babies, there are lots of babies in Park Slope, too many babies -- in fact, it's all very suggestive, but besides that it's great, it's great."

Lefkowitz said he likes to make the audience laugh and then clobber everyone in the stomach with raw emotion. This occurs when his live-in girlfriend confesses to an indiscretion.

"I arrive back home to my lonely apartment that I share with my girlfriend, who's halfway across the country -- presumably making out with some guy," he says in his script. "Inside the apartment, the tears really flow."

Lefkowitz said he is not sure what his own "now what" will entail. He plans to continue writing and acting, but maybe he'll be more collaborative in the future, crafting a production for actors other than himself.

Personal monologues are tricky because they require deep introspection, yet you don't want to seem narcissistic, Lefkowitz said. But the process, he said, is when "I feel the most engaged and alive, both in my life and in the creative process."

"Now What?" is at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St., Wednesday through Jan. 20. Showtimes are 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 8 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $10-$20. Call 410-332-0033 or go to centerstage.org.

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