Al Lafrance’s one-man show I Think I’m Dead is a captivating autobiographical story of neuroses, obsessions, alternate dimensions, hurricanes, depression, and just wanting to sleep.
The show, performed at the Gladstone Theatre for one night only on April 31, was a well-attended one-hour event by Lafrance in conjunction with the Gladstone’s Snake Oil, for which Lafrance did the lighting design.
The show positions itself somewhere between a theatrical monologue and a stand-up comedy, often moving more towards the latter. Lafrance, alone on an empty stage, with a glass of water as his only prop, gives us, essentially, his life story. He focuses on his long-term insomnia, exploring his life through the lens of sleeplessness.
An inability to sleep has followed Lafrance his whole life, and it has led to some interesting stories, which he recounts on stage with the ease of a professional storyteller. His first bit—the way he transitions from topic to topic, reminiscent of stand-up—deals with all the movies he watched growing up, since on a good day he would only get two or three hours of fitful sleep. He gravitated towards movies about insomnia, with his favorite being Fight Club, which he has watched hundreds of times.
Insomnia also appears in Lafrance’s pervasive theory of alternate dimensions, which pop back into his roughly hour-long set from time to time. He recounts a story early on about a time he almost drowned. Since everyone in his family remembers the story differently, he develops a theory in which the trauma of nearly dying splits his timeline into multiple different ones, in accordance with what his family remembers.
Lafrance doesn’t imitate his family members, nor does he pretend to take on different personas throughout the production. He comes on stage as Al Lafrance, telling his own stories, delivering his own narratives, always balancing heavy themes with lighter ones in a most masterful way.
In one extended story, he effortlessly compares his exhilaration at being in a hurricane with the eventual break-up of a long-term relationship. Parts of it are hilarious as Lafrance recounts how excited he was to be in the storm, but he can darken the mood in an instant, swinging the audience from laughter to reverential silence when he dissects his role in the failed relationship.
The show eventually circles around to depression, something that’s been unspoken, but hinted at, during the show. This is where the show goes from good stand-up to good dramatic monologue, as Lafrance recounts his early visits to therapy, his reluctance to take anti-depressants, and the eventual relief he feels when he finally starts. Lafrance talks about his difficulty finding a psychologist that he feels comfortable with, but says that when he finds the right one, it’s an instant fix, and the first step in his recovery.
Most importantly, in the context of the extended story Lafrance has built up, he finally starts sleeping after taking his anti-depressants. The show ends then with the issue being resolved as insomnia that has haunted Lafrance all his life finally goes away.
I Think I’m Dead is the work of an excellent storyteller who can captivate an audience as he guides us through his sometimes-strange life. As last, one senses palpable relief when he announces, quietly yet triumphantly, that he is finally sleeping well. From start to finish, Lafrance, alone on the stage, demands the audience’s attention. If you want a good story, I Think I’m Dead more than delivers.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.