The theater is dark, pitch black in fact. Then, over the audio system, comes the gentle, soothing sound of an acoustic guitar. A spotlight illuminates the barren stage, devoid of scenery and background. A man appears in the center of the empty space. He has neither props nor costume. He’s unremarkable in every way—just a middle aged man, dressed as if he were ready to take a Sunday stroll without purpose through the city. The audience is deadly silent. Then a deep, bellowing voice fills the theater. The man has a weird and wonderful accent, perhaps originating from the Georgia coast. Slowly and with remarkable clarity, the man’s voice rises and saturates the room. This is the writer and performer, Edgar Oliver, who stands alone, moving slowly and methodically over the empty hardwood floor. For the next hour he lays bare his heart, mind, and soul, exposing his pain and hopelessness for all to endure. His soliloquy tells a story of forlorn love, of solitude and loneliness, of a repressed and socially objectionable sexuality, of a yearning for a father he never knew. “If only I could write something that I love, I might be worthy of friendship. I might be worthy of a friend.” he laments. “ If I had a dog, he would be dead. If I had a cat, he would be gone, run away from me. The years are gone. They have left me here, alone.”
His poignant stream of consciousness, performed with hardly a discernible change on his face, clearly causes consternation for those who witness this intense presentation. Their nervous laughter is often ill-timed. Otherwise, there is just silence. Only the most unfeeling is untouched and unmoved.
Attorney Street, now playing at Axis Theatre in the West Village, is the last installment of a trilogy of Oliver’s highly acclaimed autobiographical monologues. Like his earlier works, In the Park and East 10th Street, Attorney Street derives its title from the short street that runs from Houston to Delancy on the Lower East Side, the street on which Oliver lives. He tells us he moved to New York from Savannah, GA, a place where “other children never came to play,” when he was twenty one. After he arrived, he spent his next 34-years in an old rooming house on West 10th Street. Then one day he found he was the last person still there. “All the other tenants either died or got carted off to nursing homes, strapped to stretchers, struggling to break free,” he explains. It was time to leave. The move from the room he loved left him in a state of shock. To avoid packing over three decades of his life and leaving his home, he’d “wander aimlessly across New York like a lost boy or a wild animal or some combination of both.” When his time is up and he leaves West 10th Street, he tells himself, “I can’t go back through the years. Where shall I go? What shall I do?” Oliver moves into his new spacious apartment on Attorney Street, “alone on the cracked curb of Delancy… a boy alone in the rain.”
The autobiography of Edgar Oliver hauntingly describes and defines what it means to be human. For those who’ve experienced real loss, unanswered love, abandonment, loneliness, guilt, disappointment, or regret, this performance will reach deeply into their souls. For those who’ve been fortunate enough to live lives of ease, comfort, and acceptance, Attorney Street will open their hearts and mind to the human condition, and reveal what it means to truly be alive.