Stielstra's 'Old Man' finds timeless rhythm
By EDITH LEAVIS BOOKSTEIN
NEWS SPECIAL WRITER
As an antidote to “Mindless in Seattle” or “Jejune Park” go sit a spell with “An Old Man In Love” this weekend at Performance Network.
Jay Stielstra’s Old Man is a teller of tales. He sits in a comfortable rocking chair, a can of Stroh’s nearby. His craggy face is dominated by bushy white brows that overhang but don’t quite hide his merry eyes.
He doesn’t sit for long. Such is the strength of his memories that the chair can’t hold him. Stories catapult him erect, sometimes with a limp, sometimes with a jig.
Stories are all in Stielstra’s show. Simple ballads, set to a dozen tunes, the songs are familiar, yet fresh. They echo other musics, other times. Close your eyes and Stielstra could be a medieval troubadour, spinning his tales for wagons full of eager listeners.
The Old Man remembers everything: local legends; the time Chicago’s Christmas trees were imprisoned on an ice-bound boat; the women he loved whose loss he can’t quite forget. He borrows eclectically, quoting Exodus or William Faulkner.
Musicians David Menefee on guitar and fiddle and Kelly Schmidt on mandolin and guitar do much more than play backup. They are the old man’s audience, his cronies, laughing at his stories, jogging his memory, joining in on the choruses.
The Old Man has his targets. He doesn’t much like RV’s, tall condominiums with wrought-iron railings or the loss of good fishing spots. Yet there is a wistfulness to his memories. He liked being 43 - “old enough to know better, too young to resis.” He liked taking chances.
Poaching (on women or on fish) could be risky. “You could get caught or you could get hurt. But you might find some good fishing.”
"An Old Man in Love" continues through Sunday at Performance Network, 408 W. Washington St. Curtain tonight and Saturday is 8 p.m.; curtain Sunday is 6:30 p.m. For information call 663-0681.