**** (out of 5)
Drew Michael might just have one of the more divisive shows at this year’s Fringe. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone, let alone critics. After all, for his self-titled HBO debut, Michael did away with the audience entirely, which seemed like a much crazier choice pre-pandemic. For his 2021 follow-up, Red Blue Green, Michael included an audience but revealed that his combative stance toward the rest of us amounted to trolling, even while remaining combative while doing so. For my review for Decider then, I concluded that “Michael has a commanding presence that cultivates our attention, even if some or even much of it turns out to be built upon artifice.”
After an opening bit about how our cell phones remind us on a constant basis how little we’re liked or approved, and how weirdly we as a society have suddenly condoned the concept of ghosting, we’re off onto one of Drew’s titular adventures. Or rather, adventure, now titled “Here.” Or rather, Hear? Because Michael not only wants to share with us the in-depth story about his progressive hearing loss, but also demonstrate it by giving each audience member a set of headphones so we can experience life and his show as he would. “The size and the scope of the deprivation isn’t clear until you know what you’ve been deprived of,” he tells us.
Of course, there’s a twist here, too. Different audience members will hear and experience the show differently, on purpose. Your headphones might have a blue light. Others a green one. Some may hear Michael talking while others will not. All will hear his inner monologue, and in the faintest background, you may hear part of his routine out of sync. The layering of tracks, some more muddled than others, reflect the size and scope of the deprivation.
Michael makes light of YouTube videos showing us an elderly man hearing certain sounds for the first time. But in his mind, in Michael’s mind, that’s not necessarily a beautiful moment, because suddenly he’s faced with the realization of just how much of life he has missed. And yet, when Michael finally meets an audiologist who seems to get it, to get him, it all begins to awaken Michael to an epiphany. No longer must he wonder why he has come across as intense to all of his coworkers, friends, and exes.
Throughout his comedy career, a through-line exists of Michael’s hearing loss as well as his revelations with us about how he has decided over the years to confront his deafness as well as why he has chosen to be so confrontational with us. Now, perhaps, finally, he may be ready to confront himself?
Drew Michael: Drew’s Adventures runs through Aug. 27 at Pleasance Dome, JackDome