The autobiographical solo show, like the violin, is one of God's most delicate creations. Played well, it's heaven; played badly, it's hell. 25,000 Posts, by actor, father, and real-estate-sign installer James Lapan, sits in the upper reaches of purgatory: It has some great pleasure, insight, and promise of being even better, though at times it feels too long.
Lapan's story begins with a tutorial on installing the for-sale signs you see in front lawns and parking strips around town, which takes more work than you'd think—not just the driving around, digging, and screwing on flyer boxes, but finding the right house (good clues are fresh paint and a lock box on the door), making sure you don't hit a sprinkler valve, and being careful you aren't installing a sign near a tree that's about to leaf out and block it from view or near a construction site that's about to turn your well-chosen chunk of grass into a driveway. You have to negotiate with emotional neighbors, fussy real-estate agents, and passers-by with dumb questions like "How much for the house?" (Lapan's fantasy answer: "$10,000 in cash or certified check, but you have to pay me in the next 10 minutes.") But these small details about a humble corner of the real-estate industry are really a keyhole he provides to let us peek into the financial crash of 2008, as his job became more ominous—as did his personal life.
Our narrator (sign installer by day, actor by night) and his wife had bought a house in Rainier Valley in 2002 with a mortgage that was, in retrospect, unwise. "Is my credit actually that good?" he asks himself, and us, as he signs the papers. "Do they know about my student loans? Am I getting away with something here?" Turns out, he was—and then he wasn't. After a draining divorce and some bad advice, he held on to the house until he was underwater on his mortgage, and put it on the market for a short sale instead of foreclosure—in his words, "The bank loses less money and the seller loses less dignity."
Lapan has a good-natured earnestness that is, at times, heartrending as he tells his tale of love and disappointment in marriage, theater, and real estate. (He's played a lot of supporting roles in Shakespeare productions around town, but he's still waiting for his big break.) But he also has a way with the surprise sucker punch. In one passage, he talks about being onstage for a production of The Merchant of Venice during the Nisqually earthquake: "Above my head were maybe a hundred lighting instruments rattling, bobbing, and swaying, and I thought, 'Oh!'" He looks at the lighting instruments above him now in a wide-eyed panic and says: "'Those are all gonna have to be refocused.' That's how much I love theater."
In another, he reads off a litany of events in his life: "By spring, I had started a fun, decent-paying dead-end day job with a rough-hewn but ambitious startup, and my employer was cool with it when I got cast in a show that summer. Then, in September of 2001"—and he breaks for a long, charged, riveting pause, looking down at the floor as if he's going to cry, then back up at us—"the Mariners didn't win the World Series... They were supposed to." This combination of sincerity and slyness is Lapan's greatest gift as a storyteller—paring away a few inessentials will distill what's left, making 25,000 Posts that much more potent.