Trenton’s Passage Theater is presenting one of its signature events, Solo Flights — new stage works performed by a solo performer.
Focusing on a single presentation this year, rather than a series, the nonprofit professional theater selected a three-weekend run of “I Of The Storm.”
The story involves a homeless street poet whose lyrical address to the world chronicles his story. A formerly successful businessman, the fallen men of the center of his own stormy emotions had succumbed to white-colored crime, was imprisoned, and saw his family, friends, career, and lifestyle evaporate. What remains are the writing skills he honed in prison and his self-appointed role as an oracle or prophet who rails against societal complacency, greed, and self-destruction.
Actor Richard Hoehler embodies the speaker whose telling is more spirited than his circumstances. And while he shares the bill with playwright RJ Bartholomew, it’s still a solo-flight. He uses the pen name, R.J. Bartholomew for all his solo works. RJ is also the name of the character in this show.
Carteret, New Jersey, born and raised, Hoehler is an actor and writer who has performed his solo shows off Broadway, regionally, and internationally and is the recipient of an Off-Off-Broadway Review Best Solo Performance Award.
The 64-year-old son of a truck driver father and secretary mother has also written multi-actor plays, created a fiction work based on working in a series of New Jersey dead-end blue color jobs, and appeared mainly in off-Broadway productions and on popular television shows such as NYPD Blue and Law and Order.
He is also the workshop director for the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Competition, director of their annual awards ceremony at Symphony Space, and more.
With his belief that “theater training is mostly philosophy-based,” he provides a philosophical peek into his work. “What I look at is the human condition and I think that regardless of if a person is homeless or has a home, that there’s a basic human condition there that we all share, regardless of what our challenges may be. And that’s what I try to focus on, so that people can identify with it regardless of their station in life.”
Hoehler says his attraction to solo shows started with seeing one created by well-know writer/performer Eric Bogosian (author of the noted 1987 show “Talk Radio”), began experimenting, and found a venue. “What usually happens is I start my show out where I’ve started a lot of my shows out, at a place here called the Cornelia Street Cafe (in New York City’s Greenwich Village). The first time I worked there the guy saw my work and said he liked it and that whenever I’ve got something new to bring it there first. What happened with this show that I’m bringing down to D.C. is somebody saw it at Cornelia Street and really, really liked it and said, ‘I’d like to help you get this out into the world.”
While “I Of The Storm’s” fits Passage Theater’s regular programming, the play’s passage to Trenton comes through professional and personal connections. Its New York director is Janice L Goldberg. She is also the director of former Passage Theater Artistic Director June Ballinger’s solo show “Once in, Never Out!,” about her mother’s involvement with the secret World War II British code-breaking center. In addition to that show that premiered in Trenton and is now appearing at various theaters and educational centers along the East Coast, Goldberg has directed over 75 new works, received a Kennedy Center Gold Medallion Award for her work, and is the producing artistic co-director of Artistic New Directions in New York.
I Of The Storm, Passage Theater, Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 East Front Street, Trenton. Through Sunday, March 18. $13 to $27. 609-392-0766 or www.passagetheatre.org.