Rian Keating (Photo: Susan Kirby)
The skilled storyteller Rian Keating‘s Time Stamps—Life Fragments in Story and Song is a series of personal stories with music. The show took its structure from the assignments in a memoir writing class Rian attended. The device worked well, the stories time-stamped and full of dry and arresting intelligent humor, observations, sadness, and common ground. They were linked by a truly spectacular repertoire of perfect songs.
Rian opened the show with Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny), followed by There is a Time (Charles Aznavour).
He then dove into his first assignment: To write a monologue in third person about an encounter he’d had. This tale, set in the 1970s, was about community theatre, a fellow thespian—the Mrs. Reverend Larry Boyer, and about his aspirations to go to New York upon high school graduation to try his luck in show business. Mrs. Boyer, having shown special interest in Rian, returns in the second story. His first boss in New York tells him he has chutzpah, and I have to agree. A gay teen from a small town who has serious hearing impairment moves to NYC to compete in a crazy business teeming with thousands of others who have similar aspirations, and better ears. Takes guts.
Third assignment: A journey from Point A to Point B told without any emotion. He tells a shocking and painful story matter-of-factly: a personal experience that would have sent many home to mother and dad. He fulfills the task very well—just the facts—and it is we who are left in sadness and disbelief.
There is a story which is quite emotionally harrowing about his sister, and I’m not sure if Rian went off script here; it didn’t seem as tight as the rest, and I felt a little lost. He caps it with Judy Collins’s composition, Albatross, and I had to look up the lyrics to see how they fit with the text. They did. He was spot on in every choice of music. I think I might like to hear some of his music performed in Sprechgesang style.
Rian’s show is very intimate, and I certainly don’t want to give all the specific tales away. Suffice to say, he masterfully runs us through the gamut of emotions and basic needs, hopes, and dreams with much candor: housing, romance, employment, desire, family, identity. He has an enviable gift, and his director, Tanya Moberly, did a beautiful job guiding him.
Rian was sensitively accompanied by Woody Regan who has been his musical director for decades, and who figures hilariously into one of Rian’s monologues.
Presented at Don’t Tell Mama, October 10, November 4, November 20, December 18, 2021.