A Times Square busker breaks his silence

 

Robot’s tell-all does more than go through the motions

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |   The next time you find yourself depressed or disappointed (or at least acutely aware) that life has become a bit routine, just be glad you’re not that guy who spends his days standing on a soap box in the middle of Times Square, covered head to toe in silver and competing for dollar bills with the likes of Elmo, Buzz Lightyear and The Singing Cowboy.

You may feel like a robot, but Tim Intravia is actually expected to “do the robot” — that popular dance move meant to convey mechanical motion — again and again and again. Sure, each new request chips away at his dignity…at least he has a FringeNYC gig to show for it.

As source material goes, there’s plenty to work with. Tourists who snap photos without making a cash donation, cops who want to bust you for loitering, cutthroat competition from fellow buskers, creepy groupies and silent longing for the unobtainable “Lotion Lady” who plies her trade in a nearby store: These are just a few of the nuggets Intravia draws from, as he recaps seven years of working as a living statue while killing time by daydreaming of better things to come.

That maddening existence (lonely, mute stillness punctuated by short bursts of activity and recognition) is a perfect metaphor for the hungry actor — and the irony is not lost on our man in silver.

Intravia’s a basically decent guy with an unusual day job that thrusts him into one absurd situation after another. That said, there’s one thing capable of making this soft-spoken Everyman fly into a furious, uncorked rage: a request to “do the robot.” Unfortunately, this happens about 100 times a day.

From curious onlookers, who want to see him break his motionless stance, to subway muggers to potential lovers, people just can’t get enough of that funky mechanical dance. Even an arresting officer dangles “the robot” as a Get Out of Jail Free card (“Hey Carlo,” he asks his partner, “What do you say to a mime, you have the right to speak?”).

A proud actor who learned those in-demand moves as a student at the Circle in the Square Theater School, Intravia plays his insecurity for laughs — wanting (practically begging) you to know that he’s more than the sum of his living statue skills. But you’ll never know, because his bit part as a waiter in Episode 13, Season 2 of “Blue Bloods” got cut. And that leading role in the big-budget movie inspired by a true story he told to a screenwriter? The powers that be decided there’s nobody better qualified to play Tim Intravia than Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Compared to these anecdotes, even the life of a NYC street performer pales in comparison — and that’s the notable shortcoming of this amiable but ultimately slight monologue. The show’s best moments come from the trials and errors of the guy beneath all that silver makeup, and take place outside the confines of his Times Square workplace.

Although skilled indeed at doing the robot, Intravia’s most physically expressive scene involves a pantomime of time spent at the bank while the teller meticulously counts his tips (a massive stack of dollar bills). A retrieved memory of childhood trauma is hysterical (to the audience, at least). So too is the moment when Intravia wipes away his makeup and describes his domestic life, which involves a gay roommate with noisy paramours and a refrigerator stocked only with Silver Bullet beer.

These moments, so removed from the too-often-told confessions of an underemployed actor, are full of promise. Let’s hope Intravia, a sharp and subtle observational comedian, uses “From Busk Till Dawn” to move beyond monologue work and into the realm of writing for multiple characters. That already seems to be happening. The press kit for “Busk” notes that an original web series (“Parker and Steve”) is in the can and on the way. Visit timintravia.com for more info.

Part of the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC)
Written & Performed by Tim Intravia
Directed by Rebecca Yarsin
Fri., Aug. 24, 5pm; Sat., Aug. 25, 4pm
At the Gene Frankel Theatre
24 Bond St. (btw. Lafayette & Bowery)
Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 at the
box office
To order, and for a full schedule of FringeNYC events, visit fringenyc.org

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