by David Lally · August 16, 2015
Question: What is funny, quirky, poignant, sweet and musical? Answer: Hank Leaves Home (a theatrical concert) which kicked off opening day of FringeNYC 2015 at the lovely and intimate Spectrum space on the Lower East Side.
I could sit here all day and spout more adjectives about this show. If you’re in the mood for some absolutely gorgeous harp music and a few laughs, this is your show. Reread that last sentence. Yes, it’s a show filled with beautifully wrought comedy AND a harp concert. Created by Erik Heger and Leslie Felbain and performed by Heger and directed by Felbain, Hank Leaves Home is part concert, part theatrical performance and part performance art. Hank, a socially awkward musician looking for love and meaning in a space between fantasy and reality is utterly charming. I am familiar with Mr. Heger’s brilliant work in dramas such as Stalking The Bogeyman, but I was a novice to his subtle comic skills and brilliant harp playing. By the end of the show, through the use of sparse dialogue and audience interaction, you actually know very little about Hank, but have fallen in love with him, nonetheless. His world, whether fantasy or reality, is beautiful, and who wouldn’t want to live there. Credit to Mr. Heger for crafting a fully-formed and fully-inhabited character that is genuine. A sweet tonic in a world of theatrical performances filled with bitter and snarky characters. The audience didn’t stop smiling or laughing throughout the 45 minute performance.
There is a lot of built-in improvisation in the show and much audience interaction. But don’t let that scare you off. It’s done ever-so-gently and gives many an audience member a chance to play characters in Hank’s life. Whether these characters are real or just pretend, that is for the audience to decide.
One of my favorite bits was Hank taking selfies at key moments with either himself or one of the other characters, then asking who wanted the picture. I won’t spoil the outcome but suffice it to say that Hank attempts to bring many of the audience members together as one. Hank’s request is harmless, because he just wants everyone to send the picture to all their friends so that he can become “internationally famous”. Another bit involved some fun musical improvisation as Hank played the harp and told a dramatic story. At the performance I was at, the story was about Fred and Eleanore, two tadpoles who eventually get swallowed up by a two-headed water monkey.
The Spectrum space is a charming, intimate, apartment-like space with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with books, albums, cds and other media. Walls are lined with musical instruments. There is a small kitchen that doubles as the booth. The audience sits comfortably on big cushy leather couches and armchairs.
If you’re in the mood for a small, quirky show and in the mood to leave the theatre with a smile on your face, I would suggest leaving your home to see Hank.