Based on his monologues, you’d think that Martin Dockery spends his life traveling the world collecting stories and then sharing them on stage. Everything that happens to him, every chance encounter is a potential tale. And he tells each one with such enthusiasm and unbridled energy that it’s hard not to get caught up in it, even if you’re not quite sure where it’s going.
The Holy Land Experience is Dockery’s third Piccolo offering; previous shows have included Wanderlust and The Bike Trip. Holy Land, which premiered last year, is based on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land which begins, strangely enough, in an Orlando theme park where an actor playing Jesus is crucified at the end of each day and then sings a song on a wireless mic. But that’s not where Dockery’s monologue begins. And it’s not even what the show is all about. It’s just what ties a lot of random vignettes about love and lies and faith together.
Dockery’s travelogue takes us from a Canadian immigration interrogation room to the theme park to holy sites to several women’s beds. The stories sometimes feel disjointed, but they eventually link up — though occasionally it takes longer than we would have liked. Dockery speaks so quickly it’s as if he’s attempting to fit as many words into each breath as he possibly can, his face reddening and veins bulging with the effort. Halfway through the show opening night at Theatre 99, he was already covered in sweat — no thanks to the bright stage lights, which for some unexplained reason kept going up and down throughout the show — it was very distracting. Dockery stopped only twice during his performance, for two much-deserved sips of water, and then he picked back up as if he’d never paused. The result of all this activity is that you’ll either be swept up by Dockery and his stories, or you’ll feel a little overwhelmed by the hour-plus effort, zone out, then scramble to catch up. We experienced the latter response.
While the admittedly non-religious Dockery is reminded of his Catholic roots while following the path of Christ, he’s more focused on soaking up the experience and the people he meets along the way. At its core, the story is about the women in Dockery’s life. He admits early on, with a rakish grin, that he just can’t do monogamy, which explains why he cheated on a former girlfriend three times in a row with three different women. And when he finally meets a girl who’s OK with him sleeping around — in the name of pursuing a good story — he realizes he’s found love. This realization at the end can be read one of two ways: He will change his philandering ways and commit to this woman, or he’ll continue to sleep around and stay with her because she’s totally OK with it. You can’t say he’s not honest, and that’s why he’s so appealing to some fans. At times, though, it all starts to feel a little self-indulgent.
Piccolo Spoleto: Fringe. The Holy Land Experience. June 2 at 7:30 p.m. June 8 at 9:30 p.m. Threshold Repertory Theatre, 84 ½ Society St.; June 6 at 7 p.m. June 9 at 4 p.m. Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. $16. (866) 811-4111
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