For the 2010 Cincinnati Fringe, Jimmy Hogg’s confessional storytelling and precocious, high-velocity comic delivery won him a Critic’s Pick award for his monologue A Brief History of Petty Crime. The Fringe-circuit veteran returns to the 2011 Fringe this year with Curriculum Vitae, a chronology of his humorous and humiliating experiences in the working world (performed at 1423 Vine St.), starting with his childhood chores, progressing through menial office tasks and manual labor and depositing him in the world of catering for performing arts.
Hogg has expertly choreographed his affable, self-effacing humor with physical comedy as he performs his various work environments and co-workers. His spot-on pantomime turns a lonely one-man show with a minimalist set into a raucous, entertaining and constantly evolving mini-world of environments of characters, a comic pastiche of accents, mannerisms and work-a-day tableaus.
In his quest for a life that’s “affluent both financially and emotionally,” Hogg mops, types, fits pipes, serves food, drinks, falls in and out of love, gets fired again and again and moves on to a stage of hopeful unemployment.
The audience is suspended buoyantly in the narrative as one completely engrossing, hysterical moment progresses to the next, and well-developed, approachable characters enter and exit, delivering their brief, personality-defining lines with grace.
Hogg’s grandiose verbosity is so well-timed it seems natural and even conversational — so much so that on opening night, individual audience members got carried away and offered their own banter. Not missing a beat, Hogg incorporated the benevolent hecklers seamlessly, only pausing once to jokily and gently point out that “all questions will be rhetorical.”
Elegant improvisation is Hogg’s unique gift. Speed-talking and theatrical timing can be rehearsed to perfection and delivered by any classically trained actor. But the ability to break character and yet not break character, jovially and politely involve a scene-stealer into the narrative and pick right back up again takes extraordinary presence of mind and on-your-toes raw talent.
Hogg’s story, or rather, his string of stories, doesn’t really progress to any defining moment (which audiences might expect if they saw last season’s Petty Crime), and the extravagant, rapid-fire delivery doesn’t change at all until the final seconds of parting words. But the narrative’s aimlessness fits with the subject matter. And while this unceasing pace has a fatiguing effect that begins to deafen the impact of his words, Hogg is so much fun to watch you can forgive him for it.
A chair and minimal costuming (versatile enough to signify a range of vocations) make up the show’s entire design, but Hogg’s resourceful physical theatrics propel the story in the absence of scenery; in fact, a single additional onstage element would have been one too many. The minimalist environment allows the audience to focus on his give-it-all-you’ve-got showmanship.
And an hour blinks by as Hogg gives everything he has to the stage.