No one is immune to the events that come waltzing into our lives. Deep within each person is a collection of stories that most of us don’t get the chance to hear—or share. David W. Grant, the writer, director, and star of 5 Epiphanies, understands this better than anyone. In his one-man performance, Grant invites audiences to sit in a cozy, small space where they’ll listen to the stories that defined his life.
His first story is about a weird teacher he had in a private school who made a deep impression on his life. Grant may have met this teacher in 1965, but the descriptions he relates are extremely vivid and detailed. Besides being “tall and dark and chiseled,” the teacher’s smoking habit and deep intellect are recounted with exquisite detail. The teacher evoked “leather and authority” and his voice, recalled from Grant’s memory, had an unusual sound that would make most students perk up and pay attention.
Grant also recalls a tumultuous time in his life wherein he was working as a bartender. He and his friends were living hedonistic lives, where he said “we saw truth in wine” and felt a sense of disdain about the dull architecture in D.C. He noticed that D.C. was a place “where the rich could be rich together,” which inspired a longing for him and his friends to live like English lords. His companions included people whose names were Guinevere and Lord Byron, but they all forewent silverware and “licked each other’s fingers clean.”
They also consumed a lot of drugs, with Grant recalling that a heroin high “is the ultimate high.” As a result, he and his friends thought nothing of the prospect of death, that is until one of his buddies almost died from a heroin overdose, leading Grant and his friends into denial mode.
Grant eventually figured out that his “life was going nowhere,” so he decided to join the Peace Corps and ended up in a village in South Korea, teaching English to the locals. He was treated like the village idiot there, but he gained the approval of his colleagues when he ate live prawns with gochujang. In his village, he learned that a curfew was imposed because of Communist spies. Grant grew up in the era of bomb shelters, which he found ridiculous, but his experience in South Korea is what finally made him come face-to-face with a harsh reality.
Grant wraps up his performance by sharing two final epiphanies from his life: A short one in which he discusses Theodore Roosevelt and expresses the idea that “we may be edging into a world where words trump meaning;” and a final story about months-long unemployment and the idea of failure. During that time, he instead worked on fixing up his home so that he could see physical evidence that he “was competent and productive.”
5 Epiphanies is essentially just a dude talking about himself for an hour, which on its surface, sounds kind of narcissistic and grating, but there is a sense of appreciation to be gleaned from Grant’s show: As we progress into an increasingly digital society, we might want to carry with us the stories that make us who we are—and maybe, when the time is right, share them with others.
At Pursuit Wine Bay through July 23. 1421 H St. NE. $17. (202) 737-7230. capitalfringe.org.