December 4, 2019
‘Permanent Record’ resonates with its audiences
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Patrick Hazell’s Permanent Record adds another entry to Hazell’s, uh, permanent record in his newest solo performance masterpiece. Hazell’s material doesn’t need an expert to scrub his cyber footprint, either, as Permanent Record is filled with a captivating variety of relatable situations, laugh-out-loud moments and even a few welcome dashes of heartfelt openness. The result is a 90-minute journey into the life and times of Patrick James Hazell, who willingly hired professionals to take deep dives into his permanent record to see what they could find. Those results become the pieces of a very gratifying performance puzzle, assembled before your very eyes.
This show makes its world premiere at what has become a favorite venue for both Hazell and his fans: Des Moines, Iowa’s Temple Theater. The traditional fourth wall of theatre is quickly, and literally, broken as Hazell begins the show strutting onto the set cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape in a corrections-orange jumpsuit. He strides downstage center and gives a mighty tug to rip the tape in two, beginning the spilling of his past into the audience while giving the audience free rein to flow into his world.
Hazell is a gifted writer and performer. With praise and credits that include Showtime’s “one of the five funniest people in America” to being an original writer for NBC’s Seinfeld to his previous five shows, this new work draws from this wealth of experience and talent overlaying his personal history, making Permanent Record an irresistibly engaging amalgam of humor, heart and Americana.
Crafting his show into an eclectic blend of nostalgia and comedy, Hazell deftly guides the audience along, making his journey theirs. The crowd quickly responds to identifiable situations, objects and more. This bond strengthens as the loosely contrived timeline draws everyone into Hazell’s process of discoveries. Knowing and sympathetic chuckles, ‘aha’s and more echo throughout the crowd.
What separates Permanent Record from other nostalgia comedy shows is the deceptively refreshing and complex weaving of its elements. Photographs and video clips give a best-family-memories feel to its content, while also providing back story insight into the research process of Hazell’s past. Nothing is sacred in his quest to learn about his permanent record – even his mother’s filmed testimony adds a layer of “Patrick James” foreboding and laughter. Taped celebrity commentary further punctuates the action.
Even the subtle, evocative underscoring comes from a surprise source: Patrick James Hazell – however, not the performer, but the Iowa PJH who is a Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer. Many wonderful sight gags during the early parts of the show segue into more reflective parts of Hazell’s story as he builds this personal puzzle one enlightening piece at a time. We are whisked through various stages of records; public, private and potential. Hazell (the writer/performer) ties it all together nicely by the end.
All of these cerebral, celebratory and scintillating details combine into a show with a strong framework, a unique concept sure to please and delight. Patrons will leave excitedly chatting about the show, and how it relates to their own life experiences. Permanent Record and Pat Hazell have indelibly – dare I say permanently – emblazoned his gifts of storytelling into our memories. He weaves a healthy dose of humor and self-deprecation into his performance, and shows us that we can confront our past, our present and our future with a healthy aplomb. And, in looking at ourselves in time’s mirror as he has done, make our lives better.
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