FRINGE 2017: Pounding Nails In the Floor With My Forehead

Lately, I’ve been waking up to feelings of helplessness and nihilism as my clock radio reminds me that I’m living in the age of Trump. I try to calm myself down by turning to the comedic monologues of late night talk shows, but the jokes have become repetitive. It makes me yearn for something with more substance, with more of a human touch. I need something that can stand the test of time, not just dabble in week-to-week politics.

This is why I believe local comedian Karl Knox chose to direct Eric Bogosian’s Pounding Nails In the Floor With My Forehead for this year’s Montreal Fringe Festival. Knox dug into the past and pulled out a script written in 1994 as a way of commenting on the current state of America, much like how Arthur Miller used the Salem witch trials in response to McCarthyism.

Pounding Nails is a collection of soliloquies delivered by a colourful cast of characters, some more relatable than others. Each character has felt bogged down by social norms to the point where they can no longer remain silent. Some seek comfort in support groups or grocery shopping, while others foam at the mouth with rage or fall to their knees cursing the very ground they walk on.

Knox opens the show with a nightmarish rant as a right-wing radio host; a role he slips into comfortably, being the real life host of CJLO’s Your Media Sucks! Knox returns to the stage later on as a middle-class optimist, staring pensively at his half-full pint of beer.

A standout performance was done by Dan Derkson as the Vietnam veteran-turned-drug dealer, Red. Derkson shares stories of wilder, simpler times, punctuated with maniacal laughter. But behind his bug-eyed enthusiasm are subtle hints of loneliness.

There was the noticeable absence of comedian Rodney Ramsey, one of the many reasons why I was drawn to this production. But his role as a “recovering male” was taken over by Ladies and Gentlemen co-host Daniel Carin, who brought a sense vulnerability and sheepishness to the character.

Throughout, the modestly-sized audience was either roaring with riotous laughter or dead silent, giving gravity to the ideas presented to them.

Between scenes, burlesque performer Shauna Feldman (or you might know her alter-ego, Elle Diabloe) sensually changed title cards and was complimented with hoots and whistles from the audience. Feldman closed the show by repeatedly telling society to “Blow me” in a monologue originally intended for a male actor. Despite this show of gender inclusion, my date felt that the production was still very “male-centric,” considering the emphasis on ejaculation in more than one monologue. This is a detail that couldn’t be helped since the script needed to be kept in its original form. Consequently, many out-of-date pop culture references flew over my head, since I was only a toddler at the time Bogosian wrote the play. Nevertheless, I still believe in the importance of thought-provoking theatre, especially today. If you’re looking for a remedy for your modern age blues, I recommend you head to the Wiggle Room to catch the final performances of Pounding Nails.