I'm Not Lying
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Feb. 20, 2004
I'm Not LyingState Theater, through Feb. 29
Running Time: 2 hrs, 20 min
You probably know that Jaston Williams is one of the few legitimate "stars" of Austin theatre and, with Joe Sears, the creator of Greater Tuna and its two sequels. Yes, you know who Jaston Williams is or, you think you know who Jaston Williams is, but unless you've seen his show I'm Not Lying, you don't. Not by a very long shot.
Williams is both the author of and the only performer in this production. Some might call it a monologue play, but that term doesn't do it justice. Confessional autobiography would be more appropriate, but even that doesn't truly provide a sense of what Williams is doing. Performance artists sometimes tell stories about their personal lives, as Williams does here, but their stories often seem to be directed at shocking an audience, stirring them into action, or increasing political awareness. Williams, on the other hand, seems to be purging himself. In a way, it's theatre as therapy.
Yet that doesn't do it justice either, for anyone who knows Williams knows he is an entertainer above all, with finely honed storytelling skills and a sense of humor that picks out details and strings them together in such a way that the whole is both as great as and unachievable without the sum of its parts. This is particularly so in the first act, in which Williams relates stories about life in West Texas: being the only male ballet dancer in town at the ripe old age of 5, learning to cuss at the age of 9, being saved from a rampaging pig, and my favorite story of the evening his blind and crippled mother finally losing her driver license. Each of these stories is laugh-out-loud, fall-right-down funny, but they also show Williams' uncanny ability to turn a sharp corner from comedy to high drama, both in his writing and in his delivery of it, and each story contains a lesson learned and carried beyond the events it encompasses. The second act is humorous as well, but not nearly as much as the first. In it, Williams confesses so much that, at times, you want to look away as when Williams depicts a close friend attempting to find a good vein so he can shoot up. It's a tremendously painful sequence because Williams' rendition of it is so utterly compelling.
That is, in fact, an excellent way to describe the final impression of the production. While Williams had plenty of help Scott Kanoff's work is about as invisible as a director's work can be, which is a good thing, and Christopher McCollum provides an interesting set consisting of old furniture and boxes that spill their contents ultimately the show belongs to Williams alone. While I suspect that at times Williams has used a writer's license, the stories he tells are so detailed that, despite their sometimes outrageous qualities, they have to be true. They sound like life. He's definitely not lying. And I, for one, believe him.