"Humor Abuse": A Son Remembers the Pickle Family Circus

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"Humor Abuse"
Through Feb. 5 at American Conservatory Theater, $10-$85.

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For some of us, the allure of running away with the circus, traveling in gypsy vans, living in backstage tent cities, and clowning around is but a dream, a Fellini movie. For Lorenzo Pisoni, literally born into San Francisco's Pickle Family Circus, this was his reality growing up in the late '70s. From age 2 through his teenage years, Pisoni played straight man to his father's (Pickle co-founder Larry Pisoni) clown persona, Lorenzo Pickle. Father Pisoni was a tremendous talent in the ring and trained his son with a moody, unforgiving passion (hence the title). Now, over 20 years later, clowning in front of the original Pickle Family backdrop, the young Pisoni captures the experience in this beautiful one-man show. In a perfect demonstration of showing over telling, he depicts his backstage education of Commedia dell'Arte, and his initiation into the world of pratfalls and stuffing himself into steamer trunks. The aching heart of the story is the moody father-son relationship, and young Pisoni pays tribute by lovingly performing each of his father's acts with apparent perfection and more than a hint of physical danger. It's truly the intoxicating dream of the circus.

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