The words “One-Man Show” can send even the most hardened theatre fans running to the hills. Over the years, for some reason, the One-Man Show has become a kind of punchline, something that’s been looked down upon by most of the folks at large. However, what I’ve learned in my half decade writing on theatre in this city is that the One-Man Show entirely depends on who’s telling it. If you’re with an interesting person, even the most banal story can be brought to furious light, and if you’re with a dud, the most fascinating tale can be brought down. Zach has been on a roll with its one-man shows of late, mostly built on the strength of talents like Martin Burke, and of course, the subject of their current play, Jaston Williams, whose much-acclaimed performance as Truman Capote in Tru was only a warm up for the wonders in store in the deeply person, and absolutely side-splitting “Maid Marian in a Stolen Car”.
The play gives us a broad picture of William’s life, starting in his earliest days as a child, and ending in almost real time, but what links everything together is William’s obvious love of the stage. From an early age, there was almost something sacred to his art, as even in his youth he was known to walk around the yard belting songs from classic musicals, as if they were prayers. Williams doesn’t hold back on his audience, cutting the fat and showing us a raw and honest depiction of his days, including all the drugs, the felonies, the sex, and all the crazies that lurk in the wild world of Southwest theatre. We see a versatile kindness to his depictions, as there are few characters he looks down on, going so far as to declare that theatre is a place that the losers, the outcasts, the put-upon, and the loonies can find a place to belong.
“Maid Marian in a Stolen Car” is a warts-and-all tale of life on the stage, a look at a time and a place that most of us would never be privy to, told with flair, polish, and a stark earnestness that keeps the audience engaged throughout. Jaston Williams’s many years on stage have made him an absolute icon in the Austin theatre scene, and this play is more than just a celebration of the man, but also a love letter to the stage, and everyone, from the costumers to the stage hands, who helped make put him where he is.
“Maid Marian in a Stolen Car” is playing at Zach’s Whisenhunt stage through this weekend, September 28. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit Zach’s website at zachtheatre.org.