Four actors, moving platforms, a live band and aerial work combine to unfold the story of motorcycle daredevil, Evel Knievel at the Old Arizona Theater. “Herocycle” is a new work conceived by Erik Hoover and Kym Longhi. They first debuted it at the Fringe Festival five years ago as an hour long piece and have re-shaped it to the story it is today. Partnering Joseph Campbell’s exploration of the hero’s journey and mixing it with Evel Knievel’s life, sheds light on what the world looks for in a hero.
Two actors play Knievel. One is Evel and the other his alter ego, Robert, which shows his inner struggle with good and bad. They have many overlapping lines and argue with one another. At one point Evel Knievel says “What does a man have to do to get this many people?” In other words, he knows his stunts are crazy and he is on the verge of committing suicide every time he takes off on his bike, yet he still does it. Jim Peitzman as Evel played around in the long hanging silks for a decent part of the show. He possessed a very playful manner yet had sheer strength. The way he climbed up in the silks, wrapped his body around the pieces and flew through the air was a sight to see. He is truly a man with many talents. At one point he wheeled out on a unicycle. Erik Hoover who played Robert, mastered his wheelchair skills for the play. He did a few wheelies and was also clipped in and flew around in circles during the second act. Many of his lines stood out such as “I was never a failure if I crashed and got up.” Sasha Gibbs played his wife, Linda Knievel. My favorite moment of hers was her “in flight” monologue. She was swinging around the stage and at the same time delivering lines beautifully. Plus, she looked great with her platinum blonde hair in her little motorcycle get up. In fact, all of the characters wore white with blue and red accent pieces much like Evel Knievel used to.
The music was all original which was a nice touch. The gospel song “Fork in the Road” was moving. However, I was confused if it was mocking or real. It was in reference to Evel Knievel’s appearance and baptism on the Hour of Power in 2007, so I went home and watched it via YouTube to gain better understanding. It seems Knievel was worried about his soul and was genuine about his conversion to the Christian faith but the depiction in the play was questionable. I suppose it was all a matter of speculation.
Most of the show glazed over a timeline of significant events that took place in Evel Knievel’s life. It was outlined in the program and played out for the audience to see. The Old Arizona was the perfect venue for this play due to the staging where the platform set pieces could easily be moved around and the rafters are high so aerial work could be done.
For me, the show had many elements of things I had never seen before and was interesting. My friend Jack absolutely loved it and so did the audience. They were engaged to the point of clapping, snapping and laughing throughout. I’d suggest it for those who were fans of Evel Knievel and enjoy fresh, new work. For more information of FTF Works “Herocycle” click here: http://ftfworks.org/
*My interview with co-authors of “Herocycle”: http://theplaybillcollector.com/video-of-the-week/my-interview-with-the-co-authors-of-herocycle-for-mn-monthtly