This review of Thomas Honeck's Dancing With Death: Stories Of Death Told In The Key Of Life at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Dancing With Death - Thomas Honeck
Directed by Lisa Moss
Musical Director: Andrew David Sotomayor
Cello: Jordan Jancz
The Duplex Cabaret Theatre
61 Christopher Street, NYC
Reviewed 5/27/15 at 7:00 p.m.
Thomas Honeck opens the show dressed as The Grim Reaper, a Western personification of Death depicted as a skeleton wielding a scythe, eerily and hauntingly singing "Come Little Children" (Music: James Horner; Lyrics: Brock Walsh) and finishing off the medley with "Don't Pay The Ferryman" (Music & Lyrics: Chris de Burgh). He later reveals that death to him is best represented by Kristanna Loken's character T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) in which she is a Lady In Red with blond hair. (Thomas has always thought ladies with blond hair are the most trouble). He relates the bad news to the audience that "no one gets out alive - you can't even change that with the awesome power of cabaret." Thomas, who was celebrating his 51st birthday this particular evening (with delicious chocolate and red velvet cake for audience members after the show), revealed he never expected to live this long, but now that he has, he feels he still has a lot more to contribute. Nevertheless, he said, "if I woke up dead tomorrow, I could live with that." He confessed he put the show together for two very special causes - "me and my ego."
While singing songs about death and living life to the fullest, such as "And When I Die" (Music & Lyrics: Laura Nyro), "I Take My Chances" (Music & Lyrics: Mary Chapin Carpenter & Don Schlitz), "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" (Music: Carl Sigman, Lyrics: Herb Magidson), "Simple Joys" (Music & Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz), and "I'm Gonna Live Til I Die" (Music & Lyrics: Al Hoffman, Mann Curtis and Walter Kent), Mr. Honeck tells the audience true stories regarding sickness and death he has experienced throughout his life, including having suffered multiple incidences of what some might characterize as incompetence and/or medical malpractice at Harlem Hospital, being pressured to kiss his grandfather's corpse at age two and a half, dealing with his mother's multiple sclerosis, and being told at age ten that his bed-wetting was the result of his having psychological problems. He knew, even then, that it was his bed-wetting causing his psychological problems and not the other way around. He appreciates his mom having fought for him and finding the medical cause of his condition. He happily reported that he has now gone "15,035 days without an incident" and that he's "now available for sleepovers."
Thomas Honeck says that the way he sees it, there are three possible doors out of this world. Door #1 is Reunion, where you meet all your relatives and loved ones and have a grand old time. Door #2 is Reincarnation, where you get to do it all over again until you get it right. Door #3 is the Dirt Nap of Eternal Sleep. Honeck believes "we live beyond this lifetime and that death is not the end," which he said actually makes him a little lazy because he figures "whatever I don't get done in this lifetime, I'll get done in the next." Marcus Aurelius, one of his favorite philosophers, said, "Imagine your death in this moment; now live the rest of your life as a bonus." The takeaway from this entertaining, interesting, humorous and well-constructed show is that you should not be afraid of death, but by embracing its inevitability, you will be able to better appreciate life.
Thomas Honeck is a consummate entertainer with a simple and unpretentious manner of singing. He has a strong voice, an excellent stage presence and is able to put his audience at ease even when talking about a most depressing topic, such as the contemplation of one's own death and the death of your loved ones. He actually recommends we "all spend time killing off family and friends - figuratively - to see how it makes us feel." He thinks it is a bad idea to simply ignore death and treat it with the belief that if we don't talk about it, it will simply go away." As many Shamans have told him, "by embracing death, you celebrate life." It's all a matter of perspective.
Dancing With Death: Stories Of Death Told In The Key Of Life can next be seen on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre. This show recently won a 2015 MAC Award for Special Production and at the prior six performances, $7,900.00 was raised for ALS and JDRF. At each show, you must purchase two drinks but your $15.00 cover (or what you can afford) goes directly to either the "ALS Association" or the "Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation" (JDRF) (your choice). For a show about death that will help you appreciate life, I suggest you catch Dancing With Death before the bell tolls for thee. To make reservations for the next show, visit www.theduplex.com