Kitson is a master of such details, crafting perhaps the two most well-developed characters I've ever met. William Rivington's story begins at death; Caroline Carpenter's at birth. His story will move backward, hers forward, until he's born and she dies; midway, they'll Benjamin Button, intersecting in an "essential" yet extremely inconsequential moment. The moments in between, beautiful short stories piled upon each other, are represented by 27 light bulbs hanging on strings at various heights across the stage; Kitson will cradle them, point at them, shout at them, hover above them, massage their auras like a gypsy with a crystal ball, or stand beside them like a bikini-clad girl would a truck at a trade show. Their positioning makes spatial the rush of years, lending clarity to the complex timeline Kitson navigates. (Every story is "22 years before that" and "14 years after that.")
His affability also helps: bald, bearded, and suspendered, he's a Will Oldham type with a light lisp and stutter. He starts the show casually, like a stand-up comic. Throughout, he often stops to address the audience: to explain why a joke doesn't work in America, to guffaw at audience members' reactions, to explain how he erred in lifting his water mug, to acknowledge that stammer. While Kitson's style resembles the joke-telling for which he's equally known, It's Always Now... is certainly not stand-up: it's comic storytelling with conspicuous structure, which allows for poignancy and meaning to arise from the overarching narrative.
Kitson's easygoing performance style belies this deliberate writing; he speaks at an attention-demanding clip, eloquent sentences streaming past as though perfunctory. ("There were so many turns of phrases that I wanted to remember and think about some more, but it's such an onslaught of words that I couldn't hold on to many," a friend tells me. Disappointingly, neither this nor last year's St. Ann's success, The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, have been published in the U.S.) He expounds eloquently about love and relationships, almost exclusively during Caroline's stories; William's instead turn on a dry, embittered, and recognizably English wit, crotchety humor that subverts the sentimentality and romance of its mirror sections. It plays into the storytelling's subtle parallels, like how instances from Caroline's childhood will appear in different form in William's. But I wish someone with Kitson's flair for pathos would nurture it more—not just try to laugh it away.
(Photo: Pavel Antonov)