Of all the ways to describe Harvey Pekar — irascible, schleppy malcontent; droll observer of life’s minutiae; disagreeable David Letterman guest; star and subject of the wonderful 2003 film American Splendor — “opera star” would not immediately leap to mind as a remote possibility. And yet tonight that’s exactly what Pekar will be, starring as himself (naturally) in Leave Me Alone, a “new jazz opera” written with San Francisco-based musician Dan Plonsey that’s about, well, in part the creation of a new jazz opera called Leave Me Alone. It premieres tonight at Oberlin College in Ohio for one night only, and will be simultaneously webcast for free starting at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Anyone familiar with Pekar’s determinedly autobiographical work — before American Splendor the film, he was best known for American Splendor the comics, published in the 1970s and first illustrated by R. Crumb — can recognize that Leave Me Alone is really just an expansion of what Pekar’s always done: Turn his own life into a fascinating rumination on life, and art, itself. But no, he won’t be singing; four vocalists will back up Pekar, Plonsey, and their respective wives, all playing themselves and re-creating moments from their own lives on stage.
So PopWatchers, if you have time to click on over to the free webcast and watch it, do trundle yourself back over to these parts and talk about what you thought of Harvey’s little avant-garde show. It certainly promises to be quite meta, occasionally uncomfortable, and unlike any jazz opera you’ve ever seen before.