Fringe Reviews, Day 5

Tonight I went to go see Napoleon's Secret Diary, a one man show that tries to capture Bonaparte's life. If you saw the 5-star show from a few years back about Machiavelli, its the same sort of deal: a look at Napoleon from his own perspective, and not the opinion you expect him to have. In this case, the actor (Ryan Gladstone: thanks playbill!) not only plays Napoleon, but also plays Barras, Joan of Arc (interpreted as Paris Hilton), Alexander the Great (interpreted as Rupert Everett meets a Disney supporting character I can't quite recall), and the headless Louie XVI. Unlike the Fake Depression actor, here we know what the performer is trying to pull, and it works.

There are several recurring jokes (Napoleon is short, his middle name is Glen -- it wasn't, a lot of things have French in the title): Bonaparte is fighting Superman-style for "libertee, equalitee, and twin doors which open in the same way but opposite" for example. His involvement in North American history is left by the wayside, as is his life following Waterloo. While the ABBA finale leaves the audience on a happy note, the play does suffer by never bringing us to the "secret inner thoughts" of his surrender hinted at in the denouement. In fact, many of the secret inner thoughts are left by the wayside, so that while you enjoy sitting in the audience (except for the audience participation segments, which wind up leaving the crowd thinking they can talk during the performance for the next 90 seconds), and applauding at the end, the next few hours leave you feeling empty about the true Napoléon Bonaparte.