Fringe Shorts: Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface!

Andre Francisco appreciated Dan Bernitt’s skill at monologue, but had some trouble with his playing of the other characters in this one-man show. Still, it's earned its kudos: it's encoring Sunday, 8/13 at Interact.


Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface is a one-man show—that’s its strength and its weakness. Dan Bernitt has a clear mastery of one-man staging, a conversational script that dips into sections of poetry, and honesty of experience and feeling.

The play concerns Bernitt’s experiences with his homophobic roommate, scabies confusion, reality-show boyfriends, and colliding relationships. While keeping the comic tone that works so well for the scabies subplot, Bernitt moves to questions that apply to any relationship, gay or straight. The universal problems of rejection, monogamy, compatibility, and sensuality all appear in this tale.

Bernitt’s personal honesty is so embedded in his performance that when he becomes other characters in his story they don’t seem full or true. This is not to say that Bernitt holds back anything, but this is his story and he is best as himself.

The stage is set with three chairs similar to those the audience is sitting in. These chairs, however, are seamlessly rearranged into cars, beds, dorm rooms, and doctor’s offices. Bernitt wrote a beautiful journey; by facilitating the audience’s ability to see the other characters and the scenery he was able to draw us in. This is usually the job of lights and set, but Bernitt does all dozen-plus set changes while forwarding the narrative and with the same three chairs.

As Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface! tells the audience, Bernitt does poetry readings and performances and every so often they punch through in this show. His relaxed recitation is needed because of the length of the narrative, but then he pauses and succinctly illustrates a scene in perfect detail. Most of the stories are punctuated with short spoken-word pieces, often with accompanying music, and it works.

Bernitt’s performance is a model for the one-man narrative, accomplished through the honesty of the narrator, and using minimal means to create effective theatrical illusions.