Shut Your Pie Hole, Beav! Jim Lichtenscheidl Debuts His Silent Sitcom

August 11, 2004.By Dylan Hicks, City Pages.

Jim Lichtscheidl, whose surname was once privately called “very difficult to spell” by the present writer, is a very funny guy. Loose-limbed and in command of a troop of smartly exaggerated facial expressions, Lichtsceidl, is the kind of actor who can make you laugh before he even opens his trap, which, as we will see, bodes well for his show at this year’s Fringe. He recently earned yuks as the police sergeant in The Pirates of Penzance at the Guthrie Theater, where he has frequently worked since 1998. He also excelled earlier this year in Ten Thousand Thing’s mirthful reading of Kevin Kling’s At Your Service. You may also have seen him over the years at Park Square, Theatre in the Round, or at Brave New Workshop, where he first started to get noticed. (None of the above is meant to suggest that Lichtscheidl is strictly a comedic actor—his turn as Tuzenbach in the Guthrie’s Three Sisters was low-key and pensive, while his take on Lear’s fool in a Ten Thousand Things production was both ridiculous and trenchant.)

At this year’s Fringe, Lichtscheidl stars in a work of his own creation, Knock!, a family comedy centered on Toehead, a 12-year-old boy beloved by his parents and harassed by his older sister. The character is not entirely unlike a younger version of the show’s yellow-haired lead, who grew up in Lino Lakes with four older sisters, one of whom, Lisa Spreeman, is playing Toe-head’s older sister in Knock!

Lichtscheidl is a self-described TV baby, and he calls the show a “theatrical sitcom.” “In my mind,” he says over lunch at Cafe Barbette, “I see it as a TV show, but I always want to have a live audience.” The hour-long show is broken into two episodes: “The Family Pyramid” (the pilot episode, as it were) and “The Love Note,” in which Toehead gets his first billet-doux. Unlike TV sitcoms, though, Knock contains no dialogue, and conveys its plots through movement, pantomime, and music by Herb Alpert, exotica composer Esquivel, and others. Knock!’s debut is being presented by Theater Latté Da, whose artistic director Peter Rothstein is co-directing the show with Lichtscheidl. Rothstein was out of town for some of the rehearsal period, however, so Lichtscheidl has been honing his craft through his usual method of religiously watching rehearsal videos. “When people find out how much I watch myself on video, they say, ‘Oh, you’re so vain.’ But actually I find watching myself to be excruciating. So it’s not about vanity, it’s about exacting the science of physical comedy.”

Knock! Loring Playhouse, Aug. 8, 8:30 p.m.; Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m.; Aug. 12, 8:30 p.m.; Aug. 13, 5:30 p.m.; Aug. 15, 2:30 p.m.