The Jim Carroll Website Home > Background > The Basketball Diaries > Pascal Ulli's Stage Adaptation > Review by Michael Criscuolo

FringeNYC 2001 Reviews #7

Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries by Pascal Ulli

Swiss actor Pascal Ulli has adapted Jim Carroll’s autobiographical novel, The Basketball Diaries, into a solo showcase for himself. Considering Ulli’s affinity for method acting (which he details extensively in his program bio), Carroll’s book—which chronicles the author’s coming-of-age as a basketball player, male hustler, drug addict, and budding writer on the mean streets of 1960s New York—seems like properly intense material for him. Unfortunately, what would seem to be a perfect fit for both Ulli and the text turns out to need a few alterations after all.

The main obstacle is the form itself. One-person shows are basically long speeches, but their success rests solely on being thought of by the actor as a full-length, two-person scene between the speaker and the listener, who may be an imaginary offstage figure on the audience themselves. The speaker’s need to tell his or her story to the listener, and his or her reasons for telling it to that particular person, are what drive a one-person show forward. Ulli hinders himself by not clarifying enough for himself who his listener is, or what they mean to him. By doing so, he prevents himself from fully expressing why his character needs to tell his story, and why the audience should even listen to it.

Ulli also has a language barrier to overcome. English is obviously not his first language, even though he is functionally fluent and is always completely understandable. But, he hasn’t yet reached a level of comfort or mastery that allows him to deploy a multitude of inflections and other vocal nuances that would not only give more meaning to what he’s saying and make it sound like he knows what he’s talking about, but would also help him (and, in turn, the audience) connect emotionally even more to the material. Right now, it just feels like he’s reciting his lines, but he should settle into a more comfortable groove the more he performs the show.

The original review was found at

Copyright © 2001 The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.


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