SALT LAKE CITY — In The Jawbone’s Daughter, as an absurdist piece by writer Eric Paul Lyman, there really is no story, because the story doesn’t matter. There is a trace of plot, however. Three men are poised after monumental disaster has struck, and two of them are starving. They appear at a locked door, and suddenly another man appears. He places a podium on the stage with a telephone, a bell, and a sign: “Please ring bell for service!” The haughty character Flince refuses to comply with anything: ringing the bell, submitting to a search and identify, or listening politely while someone reads a poem. Cannibalism is considered, and in the end, human nature gets a pie in the face.
I love an absurdist piece. So, I may be slightly biased when I proclaim that The Jawbone’s Daughter is the best piece of work I have seen at the Fringe festival thus far. There are some shows I just wish I could shoot into superstardom with the press of a button, and this is certainly one. With a superb script, surprising and astonishing acting, and shock factor laughs, this play is one that I wish could go far. My hope is that the writer will see this play for what it is: something truly special, and try to do something with it. Basically, these guys should be paid.
Jon Liddiard is absolutely the finest actor I have seen at Fringe. There, I said it. His boorish attitude as he refused comfort based on his absolute desire for comfort was complex, delightful, and at times hilarious. He is a palpable and potent presence on stage, and I would kick a puppy to work with him. There is a lot of creativity and talent at such a festival, but a rare treat to see someone whose star shines so brightly that makes me feel like I am in a professional house.
His fellow co-stars were no slouches either. Lyman as the mentally ill and forgetful Drummond (“with two Ds”) was raucously funny. It was clear there was a madman (or three) on stage, depending on one’s tolerance for hats. Chris Bentley as the sweet and mostly gentle Strothe played the comedy of innocence extremely well, particularly in a scene where he to donned a special hat.
The Jawbone’s Daughter has one performance left at Fringe, and that is a shame. If I had enough money, I would hire these three gents to perform for a far longer run.