TJ Dawe in The Slip-Knot Review

Let's see if this can be done without comparisons, because whoever TJ Dawe might remind us of, the most accurate statement is that the very original TJ Dawe is very like TJ Dawe.

Sardonic and often dead-pan, Dawe also breaks out into moments of manic gesticulation

The Slip-Knot is an hilarious one-man show that ran for one night only at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena, Sunday, February 18. Among L.A. theatres, the Fremont is remarkably well-attended, nearly selling out every show that I've seen there.

Excepting a few empty seats in the back, Dawe played to a full house. This audience was hypnotized from the moment he stepped on stage (which included scenery from Ray Bradbury's Leviathan currently running there. "I'm not used to performing with sci-fi spaceships on the stage, so that was interesting," Dawe said after the show, "Otherwise, this is about the same dimensions of the theatres where I perform in Canada. I'm very comfortable with it.").

Dawe has written, performed, or adapted over 15 plays

Dawe, unassuming, dressed in street clothes, approached two mic stands and flipped on 3 colored spotlights. This was one hypnotizing aspect; the lights were inches from him, painting ominous, eerie colors across his face. We slowly caught on that the three lights, pointing in slightly different angles, created separate stages for the three monologues he presented. This was a character based on Dawe, lamenting over three lousy jobs he had: a drugstore "merchandiser" (stock boy), "roofing shingle debris collection bin hauler helper" (I doubt I nailed it exactly, but it was about driving a truck), and a post office complaint receiver. This last one included the explanation that cremated ashes cannot be insured by mail as they are considered meat, "though overdone..." and everyone knows that meat is one of the 4 categories of uninsurable mail.

The three stories are expertly aligned to dance with each other's rhythms. They are lighthearted, then anxious, then outrageous, but always parallel.

The 90-minute show had very few pauses. Dawe has enacted this one since 2001 and very seldom stumbled during the rapid fire of 14,000 words. A few times, noises from the outside crept in, requiring a snappy ad-lib ("Did someone just laugh in Morse code?" he asked after some crickets over the speakers interrupted, "A robot thinks I'm funny!"), and once he had to stop to breathe, confessing, "This routine is really difficult." That was one of the few indications of his stress. He seemed effortlessly to shift moods and to haul the audience up a mountaintop where we could see the hilarity of the working world.

Dawe hauled the audience up a mountaintop where we could see the hilarity of the working world

Dawe occupied only about 2 square meters (he's Canadian) of the stage. He comes off as sardonic and often dead-pan, though breaks out into moments of manic gesticulation, especially when offering his rendition of Carol of the Bells.

Music is an important part of the show, both celebrating the work of the great guitarist John Fahey and enhancing the various tones of the play, which is dedicated to Fahey, about whom 3 of the program's 4 pages are written.

"I'm writing a one man show called Totem Figures..." Dawe writes, "...Who are the faces on the Mt. Rushmore of your life?...John Fahey is most certainly one of mine. Charles Bukowski, George Carlin, and my dad are the others in my big four." Carlin's influence is evident in Dawe's work, but his awareness of Spalding Gray is clearer still to anyone aware of Gray's work. Lissa Reynolds, Fremont's artistic director noticed the connection the first time she saw Dawe on stage.

"Who are the faces on the Mt. Rushmore of your life? John Fahey is most certainly one of mine. Charles Bukowski, George Carlin, and my dad are the others in my big four"

"There are hundreds of shows at the Fringe (huge festival of theatre arts) and the buzz was 'You gotta see TJ Dawe.' ...He gave me memories of Spalding Gray telling stories in a little place. I asked him if he would come here to do a fund raiser and he said yes. It's so generous of him to come. He's a great talent and a great person. Nobody knows him here, but in Canada, they line up around the block to see him."

Dawe would like to change that anonymity. He hopes that L.A. would be receptive to a tour of one of his shows.

"Very few people outside L.A. recommend coming here. They don't realize how much is going on," he raved, "L.A. is a great city. I'm meeting great people and having a great time."

If TJ Dawe does take a run in L.A., try to catch a show whether or not the line goes around the block.

Check out for more info and for upcoming shows in South Pasadena.

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