Actor/Comedian Ryan McChesney from Kansas City opens his one-man show “Laughing at Funerals” with a memory of the first funeral he attended, and, from there his life-story unfolds at the 2021 Kansas City Fringe Festival.
Who remembers the first funeral you attended? Did anyone tell you what to expect? Did anyone tell you what to do? Did anyone prepare you in any way? Most likely–NOT.
McChesney, a performer in the Chicago area, knits together a series of stories about his formative years beginning with his memory of a funeral and his recollection of his unpreparedness of the viewing. After that short, humorous story, McChesney begins a series of memories about growing up.
His family consists of his parents and a younger brother, but most of the stories focus on Ryan and his parents. His strong, bonded relationship with his parents shows through the stories that he tells with love. And, like most, he must deal with his parents’ illnesses and deaths as the narrative continues.
Although not a light-hearted piece, “Laughing at Funerals” never plunges into drama. Ryan explains, with sincerity, how he reacted with each passing. Touching moments allow viewers to recognize elements they, too, might know.
At the growing-up portion of the memories, knowing Ryan’s approximate age or grade would aid by giving the viewers a visual image to help guide the story. Trying to approximate his age from his word choices or delivery can momentarily distract from the story.
As Ryan progresses through “Laughing at Funerals” the audience knows where the presentation leads. The final stories help the audience understand Ryan’s persona, his attitudes, and his openness in sharing some personal experiences.
“Laughing at Funerals” provides a road-map that works for Ryan and might come in handy for other KC Fringe Festival viewers.