Theater Review: “The Jacob Higginbotham Show” at The Magnetic Theatre

John Crutchfield as Jacob Higginbotham. Photo by Rodney Smith/Tempus Fugit Design

Most of us, at one time or another, have wished that we could venture into the mind and inner workings of someone else so as to better know what they are thinking or feeling. Careful what you wish for. Then again, if all such journeys into the deep dark recesses of another’s mind could be as wildly entertaining as the madcap tour de force of John Crutchfield‘s The Jacob Higginbotham Show, onstage at The Magnetic Theatre, it might not be so bad.

Written, directed and performed by Crutchfield, the show delves into the charming, manic and eccentric title character as he awaits the reply to his144th wedding proposal. He’s a hopefully hopeless romantic relentlessly pursuing happiness — but he goes about it in a way that is starkly shocking to most of us.

Higginbotham definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer — or, rather, his own DJ. Mary Zogzas, who runs the sound board from on stage, weaves a tapestry of sounds that echo around in the mind of Higginbotham. Zogzas also gets into the act a few times, to dazzling and riotous effect. Crutchfield sometimes acknowledges Zogzas, neither sure of her presence, nor alarmed by it.

Crutchfield is a joy to watch as he takes the audience on a wild journey of physical and mental dexterity. He is as wiry as he is wily. He literally climbs the furniture at times, and makes the simple act of putting on his pants into a gymnastic feat. Part vaudeville comic, part Monty Python silly walk enthusiast, Crutchfield prowls the stage like a restless and hungry tiger. It is a physically taxing show, no doubt. And, in addition to mentioning his profuse sweating, Higginbotham occasionally stops to wipe and dab away the gathering droplets.

Crutchfield was part of The Magnetic Theatre at its beginning. He’s since moved to Berlin, Germany. This play marks a triumphant return to Asheville, as well as Crutchfield’s chance to perform in the new Magnetic 375 space.

As happy as that reunion is, the audience is left feeling a little sad for Higginbotham as his journey ends. Still, there’s hope that he won’t be deterred from his particularly peculiar approach to life. Sure, he might do well to get some psychotherapy or some industrial grade meds to bring him into level balance with the rest of the world, but in the end, you can’t help but wonder if perhaps he’s the one who has it right, and the rest of us have it all wrong.

The Jacob Higginbotham Show continues its run at The Magnetic Theatre through Saturday, Sept. 12, with performances Thursdays to Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. $18-$21.


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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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