There's very little nonsense in Kevin Cotter's one-hour, one-man portrait of a small-time ex-boxer turned small-time crook on London's seedier side. What there is is a lot of down-to-earth reality, some hard knocks, and an abundance of honest, true humor. The "nonsense" of the title is slang, referring to a bit of a youthful "bunk-up" resulting from a "blinding horn" that sets our hero's saga into motion, and if the slang needs explaining, it is safer done by the glossary provided with the program.
The story is not unusual, but many of its moments are: growing up in the slums, the "nonsense" that pointed a finger to a way out, the growing reputation as a young boxer now able to send money home to Mum, the accident in the ring that ended that career, and finally the descent into a life of petty crime with its sadness and also its sometime hilarity. The tale of friend Moe's strange dream of intercourse with sterling banknotes, the fire during a robbery put out by cohorts from above to the loud laughter of the watching police, and other cameos take the piece out of the ordinary and almost into the realm of fantasy. And there's also the bitterness that flavors the lot, like the moment his late mother's bequest is handed to him—money he'd sent her, which she hadn't wanted because he earned it breaking a Commandment.
This all might not work so well in hands other than those of Dan Hildebrand, an actor remembered for hard-bitten performances at the Mark Taper in Dealer's Choice and the Matrix staging of Pinter's The Homecoming. He's just as hard-bitten here, but there's a subtlety and an intricate subtext that create an image of a small boy grown big but not jaded. Hildebrand's performance is exact, fluid, and as frequently comic as his character's ability to laugh at life and at himself.
Director Andrew Kazamia intuitively frames the performance as a gym workout, with Hildebrand lifting barbells and dumbbells, doing pushups on benches, sweating between his sly smirks and giggles, using the exercises as punctuation for what otherwise could be a static tale. There is nothing static here; the piece is volatile, human, and very wise in its intimate glimpse at one small thread of the human condition.
"The Nonsense," presented by Lucky Glucky Productions at the Sierra Stage, 1444 N. Sierra Bonita, Los Angeles. Wed. 8 p.m. Aug. 22-Sept. 12. $8. (213) 444-6603.