Geoff Hoyle is such a superbly physical comic actor, it’s hard to imagine him growing old. Yet he ages before our very eyes in “Geezer.”
Death and decay are at the center of this bracing new solo show, which opened Thursday at the Marsh.
But “Geezer” is anything but a downer. Written by Hoyle, developed with and directed by David Ford, the results are hilarious and revealing — a fitting showcase for Hoyle’s comic skills, and a moving autobiographical work about one of the Bay Area’s most treasured theater artists.
Hoyle, who has excelled in roles from The City’s own Pickle Family Circus to Broadway’s “The Lion King,” brings all his considerable talents to bear here. Death, of course, is the final frontier, and he goes there boldly, leaving no humiliating moment of decrepitude unexplored over the course of two hours.
He takes a warp-speed spin through an obstacle course of symptoms (“Death: the Video Game!”), riffs on the indignities of nose hair and back pain, makes a surreal phone call to a death-reservation agency, and finally flashes forward to his final days as a senile old coot in a rest home called “Elder-Ado.”
For all its dread of what’s to come, though, “Geezer” spends much of its time looking back.
In scenes recalling Hoyle’s working-class English childhood, his training (with Marcel Marceau’s teacher, Etienne Decroux) in Paris, and his first performances on the streets of London, the show creates a compelling portrait of the artist as a young man.
Hoyle’s gift for characterization is sublime, and “Geezer” is filled with indelible portraits: the Latin teacher who enflamed his young heart, the grimacing pedant who ushered him into drama school, the demanding Decroux, even the sparrow in the teachings of the Venerable Bede. All come to vivid life in his performance.
Central to the story is Hoyle’s father, a gruff, squinting typesetter who introduced his 11-year-old son to Shakespeare but never fully grasped his work as an artist.
Or did he? In the show’s final moments, Hoyle suggests that neither past nor future are set in stone. In between, there’s a world of humor: for a show about Death, “Geezer” pulses with life. Hoyle may be utterly convincing as an old man. But he still has the moves of an actor in his prime.
Where: The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays, 5 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes May 1
Tickets: $20 to $50
Contact: (415) 282-3055; www.themarsh.org