See it if you like your camp served up with a healthy dose of avant garde pretentions. You like great acting. You like shows in unusual spaces.
Don't see it if if you want pure camp or a show with a lot of pathos. It is smart and often very funny but it doesn't quite add up to much. Read more
See it if if you are interested in the early 20Th Century avant garde culture
Don't see it if if you are a homophobe or easily bored
See it if you're down to contemplate your own mortality (and also absurdity) in an oh so intimate space
Don't see it if you'd rather watch a "play" play in a "theater" theater Read more
See it if You want to be dazzled. Paul Swan is Dead and Gone hurtles you back into the last century & forces you to confront the possibilities of camp
Don't see it if You are wedded to realism.
See it if you want something pretty radical and unique. Super cool ideas and performances. It’ll stay on your mind and give you plenty to talk about.
Don't see it if You want conventional, easy, passive theater.
See it if So entertaining. Performances are all excellent, especially Mr. Torn and Mr. Johanson. Beautiful writing, witty/wise and heartbreaking.
Don't see it if You feel uncomfortable watching theater or performers in an intimate setting. Read more
“It’s certainly not a conventional drama, any more than the real Paul Swan was a conventional artist...And though the fearless actor Torn doesn’t stint on the theatrics, his incarnation of Swan never quite comes to life...Though the monologues Kiechel has given him feel believable enough, there is a weird superstructure around them, as if to assert the play’s avant-garde bona fides. In a work about fustiness, such distancing effects seem like holding one’s nose.”
“Kiechel’s script tries to move us from seeing Swan as an absurdity to considering him a great man...But the play doesn’t quite make the intended turn...Torn excels at seeming defenseless...Were the whole production played at this nerve-quivering pitch, the wryness might have resolved into something deeper. Instead...Cosson has the other actors perform with vaudevillian flair, which keeps the show’s affect flat and shiny just when it needs to let us past the surface."
“In her charmingly eccentric but frustratingly slack play, Claire Kiechel summons her real-life great-granduncle, Paul Swan...Reality and memory are slippery for the aging diva. Likewise, the play, directed by Steve Cosson for the Civilians, never gets a sure grip on what it’s trying to do—although Johanson and Avi A. Amon’s music for various pieces of Swan’s writings results in some lovely Michael Friedman-esque songs.”
“A fairly chaotic affair, an evening of alarms and excursions that doesn't do nearly enough to get inside the head of this professional eccentric. The script tries, rather uncertainly, to play him for laughs, aiming for camp hilarity but lacking the grasp of comic detail that would make Swan amusing, compelling, pitiable, or all three...Torn, a gifted character actor, certainly throws himself into the persona of Swan...As written, however, he is an attitude rather than a character."
“An offbeat new bio-drama...Written and performed in an unconventional manner...Neither the writing nor the performances fulfill the work’s promise...It is obvious that the playwright aspires to present a sympathetic portrait of an aging artist...Unfortunately, Kiechel’s terribly sketchy play fails to make a case for this presumably gifted...tiresome old poseur...This ambitious biographical study does not nearly measure up to the exotic individual it tries to represent.”
"Johanson, Cespedes, and Scott all have some fine moments in the show. However, this is really Tony Torn's triumph. His recent turn as a Trump-like figure in Jean-Claude Van Italie's 'The Fat Lady Sings' (at La Mama) was impressive, but here he pulls out all the stops. He takes Paul Swan beyond the realms of camp and pathos. He endows him with a self-awareness that, if it ever before existed, has long been buried under decades' worth of caked-on makeup and pretentiousness."
"Rarely is that experience as magical as The Civilians' mostly verbatim theatrical approach to the lesser-known camp goddess Paul Swan...Camp is having a resurgence...Done properly, with a deep mystery of beautiful tragedy, it is the work of Paul Swan, a man played in Kiechel’s play by a perfectly gentle Tony Torn...While there is much to be confused about, director Steve Cosson makes the most impact in the latter half of 'Paul Swan is Dead and Gone.'"
"Across a quick 75 minutes, this performance piece proves to be not only sexually fluid, but also camp-tolerant and mortality-curious. Every family has its share of unusual relatives, but playwright Claire Kiechel struck gold with Swan, who is her great grand-uncle. Fortunately, she has no interest in creating a straightforward biography...Both actors amuse throughout with satirically flourished poetry and dance routines. And Johanson charms while showing off a fine singing voice."