Encore Michigan

‘Smitty Harbinger’ is side-splitting family fun

Guest Review October 21, 2018

By Casaundra Freeman

DETROIT,Mich.–Tim Campos, hailing from Detroit but currently residing in Chicago, will be getting a bill from me. I’m certain that I’m going to need medical attention after laughing so hard during his one-man show, Smitty Harbinger: Keep Your Guard Up playing at the Boll Family YMCA Theatre through October 21, 2018. Actually it’s a two man show. The lighthearted accompaniment provided by Elliot Taggart was as essential to the show as Campos’ incredibly engaging physical performance. I suppose I’ll split the bill between the two of them.

Any actor worth their salt will tell you that silence on stage has to be earned. Silence is not a pause. A pause is filled with nothing. As far as acting choices go, it’s a predetermined attempt to be clever. Planning a pause requires that you respond to the moment in a scene before it actually presents itself. Its inauthentic at best. Usually it reads as such. Silence however is filled with tension, anticipation, and conflict– all of the wonderful elements that advance the play. Keep Your Guard Up, skillfully guided by director Tonika Todorova, incorporates all of those elements and despite the physical prerequisite that is slapstick comedy, does so without saying a word. Tim Campos performs a side splitting (hence the medical bill) tour de force in complete silence. It was magical.

I don’t want to mislead you. There were words. Lots of them. Coming from the audience which ranged in age from about four years old to well into the part of life where the places where hair was once nicely situated atop your head either has gone missing, or gone gray. “Oh no!” “That’s hilarious!” “What is he going to do next Mommy?” bursted from the nearly packed house as Campos navigated the expertly built set–a yellow guard booth with what seemed to be dueling guard rails. This show turns everything on its head. Simple things like avoiding a bee sting or getting locked out of someplace we need to be are all highlighted during this just north of 60-minute romp.

But because of the silence something transformative happened. Campos, who also wrote the show that harkens back to the silent comedies of the 1920s, makes you unmistakably aware of the importance of the audience. From cleaning a glassless window pane, with a spray bottle and therefore delightfully misting the audience, to trying and failing to get an all too shy audience member to dance with him, Campos kept the audience engaged and on their toes for the entire evening. More than that though, this viewer became aware how sometimes in life we overcomplicate simple matters, and oversimplify complex ones.

There is a joyous tone to this show that celebrates life and work and music in its simplest of forms. And you may just leave the theatre with the overarching idea that when you quiet down and welcome silence in your own life, only then can you fully engage with the joy that it has to offer.

Still, my side hurts. From laughter. And those responsible for bringing Smitty Harbinger: Keep Your Guard Up to Detroit are responsible. By the time this piece runs–the run here in Detroit is far too short–they will likely be headed back home. But I guess finding Campos and crew will be a good reason for me to blow through the Windy City, with medical bills in hand.



Week of 11/18/2019

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