Explicit Vows

GROOM WITH A VIEW Jiler sits out his nuptials

GROOM WITH A VIEW Jiler sits out his nuptials Photograph: Sucheera Misato

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

Autobiographical solo shows offer an unequal bargain: We, the audience, give up an hour and change to watch them, but the performers who plumb their private traumas for our delectation surrender a piece of their souls—or at least a measurable swatch of their dignity. So why does the value exchange often feel exactly reversed? Case in point: John Jiler’s trite, mildly irritating riff on male-female relations, as reflected through his own unremarkable love life.

It’s clearly a strenuous and sweaty workout for him, as he goes from wedding tux to undershirt and his tale reels from youthful romanticism to middle-aged resignation. But it’s also something of a chore for us: We wince through the details of Jiler’s first sexual experience (and his second and third) and squirm helplessly as he flagellates himself over a variety of neuroses and lingering transgressions. The majority of these are numbingly mundane, and those more dramatic—a drink-addled near-suicide attempt, a blackout at a cocktail party—might be best left to professionals.

In fact, by his account, Jiler did spend some time in an institution. But it’s not a good sign that a white-coated German shrink, rendered with dripping sarcasm, emerges as the show’s liveliest and most sympathetic character. At least he talks more sense than Noël Coward, whom Jiler imagines appearing periodically with pithy observations on the vagaries of love. If only Coward had offered this bit of theatrical advice: Don’t put your therapy on the stage, Mr. Jiler.

Flea Theatre. By John Jiler. Dir. Jeffrey Menaker. With Jiler, Albert Ahronheim. 1hr 10mins. No intermission.