by Sean Hillen
With a single leather armchair as his only stage prop, versatile performer Olivier Giraud leaves his audience belly laughing at Théâtre des Nouveautés in Paris with his hilarious culturally-irreverent one-man show, ‘How To Become A Parisian In One Hour.’
From settings ranging from restaurants to taxis, from the metro to nightclubs, as well as everyday activities such as shopping, apartment hunting, dating and sex, you’ll learn how to act like a true native of the City of Lights.
Talented Giraud, a Robert Downey Jr. lookalike, demonstrates an uncanny ability to communicate with his eyes and tell a story with comical facial contortions, expressing emotions that make words unnecessary.
Voice, eyes and face are not the only body parts the accomplished actor uses to great aplomb. Prepare to laugh heartily while watching his French sex scene and his octane-fueled, flashing-lights nightclub dancing routines.
His amusing re-enactments from a shopping experience in the French capital culminate in the memorable line ‘chicken in a condom’ while a metro moment is illustrated by the phrase, ‘You play, you pay,’ both explained in the context of ‘You don’t know them, you don’t care.’
You’ll even learn how to dress like a Parisian and – for ladies only – how to make best use of a metro ticket for intimate beautification and sensual enhancement. You’ll also learn how to properly hail a garcon. As for the restricted size of Parisian apartments, suffice it to say Giraud’s depiction of them is both colorful and racy.
The no-interval show also features strong interaction with audience members including people being asked on-stage to help out with amusing skits. Located in a front central seat (the worst possible hideaway in any theater) I was invited by Olivier to perform under his instructions some of the phrases and slick body movements he had so skillfully illustrated, including simulating a sexy Parisian woman in the act of flirting. I sense the laughter and hearty applause I received from kind audience members was due more to communal empathy and sheer relief they had not been selected than any theatrical prowess on my part. Thankfully there are no video recordings of my display of thespian ineptitude (or are there?).
Giraud, who lived five years in the US, thus his many impersonations of unnaturally gleeful over-the-top American waiters and store assistants, initially faced a challenging task hosting his one-man show. As he readily admits, Parisian theater owners looked askance at the idea of a one-person English-language performance. But, infused with the American ‘can-do’ attitude, he persevered. His efforts seem to have paid off. A recent Thursday evening show was jam-packed with a cheerful, upbeat audience. This is a show well-worth seeing for its sheer uplifting exuberance.