by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low • July 31, 2008 • Systems: A Literal Interpretation of the Fourth Wall
I can’t say that the text did much for me: it all seemed to be very clever and very quick and very cerebral, deconstructing all kinds of aspects of theatre and blah blah blah. It’s certainly possible that there’s more going on in the full show than was apparent during a brief preview, but the intellectual exercise ultimately feels kind of hollow to me.
Tim Mooney is something of a controversial figure locally — there’s camps that absolutely love and camps that absolutely hate his stuff — and I’m definitely part of the former.
That said, I’ll confess that this is a weaker piece he chose to do tonight — one that I suspect is effective within the overall context of the show, but doesn’t communicate much as an excerpt. Regardless, he’s on my “must-see” list, if only because of his work in previous years.
I’m not usually a visual person when it comes to theatre — I’m interested primarily in text, and in performances by actors.
This is a piece, however, that hinges heavily on creating a visual world — and they didn’t really have the tools to do that in the preview. This is a piece that’s almost all style, all aesthetic, all about creating a cool world — and I’m struggling to visualize the performance, good or bad, on the basis of what we saw tonight.
This is one that was very popular with the audience, and well-played by the performer — she waddles out as a cheerful, elderly homeless lady, sharing her homespun insights with the audience.
And yet, the whole exercise feels somewhat manipulative to me — she comes across like a bit of a stock character, and the sudden emotional shifts seem calculated. Well-played, and probably very popular with the right audience — but I have a hard time visualizing spending much more time with this woman.
This pleased me — a solid little comedy scene, featuring a girl being accosted by the classic seedy, sleazy date. Not really much of anything to it beyond that, but superbly played by both of them, and I was laughing pretty much from beginning to end.
Gah, this requires no selling from me: he’s a Fringe hit, and deservedly so. I’m actually kind of fascinated to see which piece ends up becoming more heavily requested (I’m a “Gilgamesh” fan, myself). No matter: I’ve seen both pieces, both are brilliant, and I would happily sit through either again. And at Fringe, that’s not nothing.
So guy comes out in a weird costume, weird music starts playing, and he moves through the space in a weird way. I can’t say that I have any real idea exactly what was going in the little movement sequence I witnessed, and I seemed to have every reason to hate it — but I *loved* it. I found it funny and engaging and consistently interesting throughout. Moreover, he demonstrated a physical discipline and control that suggests to me that he’s more than capable of sustaining an hour show: the brief piece I saw was the work of an artist I’m prepared to trust.
So, usually I’m happy to use this space to just sort of talk about my impressions, work through them, let people read and draw their own conclusions.
Not so with this one. I want you to see this show. You, reading this. That’s right: go ahead, click on the link above, go to his show page, and schedule one of his performances. Yes, it’s funny. Yes, it’s smart. But beyond that, I think it captures something important: I think that it captures some important truths about humanity, and government, and all those kinds of things that I’m constantly struggling to find a way to communicate to people. When I complain about cheap, stupid, obvious political comedy? This is the antithesis of that.
I could go on and on. But really. Schedule it now. Go.
Les Kurkendaal is something of a beloved figure locally. I’ve never seen any of his shows, and I’ll confess that his previews have never really done much for me: I find his stage character to be somewhat needy in a way that really turns me off. I’ll also throw out that the subject matter of this show — more body-image angst — isn’t really something that excites me.
But I was thoroughly entertained by his performance tonight: he was more relaxed and genuinely playful than I’ve seen him before, and his subject matter — how bar crawls while touring have basically destroyed his physique — well, they were pretty inside jokes, but, hey, I’m inside and I enjoyed them, found myself laughing along — yes, yes, those are all things that I recognize. I don’t know if that recommends it to anybody else, but I certainly had a good time.
This is another group that I hear about constantly, but whose shows I’ve never managed to catch. Not for any lack of desire — everything I’ve seen has impressed me, and this was no exception.
Trying to describe what they did is next to impossible: it was, well, kind of a nonsense song, kind of a kid’s song, acted out through extremely physical, extremely ludicrous, brilliantly timed gestures. And that was it. A simple gag, elegantly executed: but one that had the full house in stitches from beginning to end.
Phillip Andrew Bennett Low (email@example.com) is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theatre critic and libertarian activist, who lurks ominously in the desert wilds of St. Louis Park, feasting upon the hygienically-prepared flesh of the once-living. His main claim to fame is probably as co-founder of the Rockstar Storytellers, and as founder/producer of Maximum Verbosity, a garage-band-like theatre troupe that is in a state of constantly re-defining itself.