Our current historical moment, with the government tapping citizens’ phones and conducing secret interrogations in sketchily-governed foreign lands, might seem to be a propitious occasion for the reanimation of an iconic Cold War caricature, the title character of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Further, if one is resolved to work such black magic–and to do so in our own unsuspecting City of Lakes–one might as well situate oneself in the basement of a former coffin factory.
Strange Love by the Skewed Visions performance company, an installation (by Sean Kelley-Pegg) and performance (by Charles Campbell) at Casket Arts. Performances are at 8 PM. Show runs September 21-24 & 27-30, October 4-7, 11-14. Contact Skewed Visions at 612-201-5727 or skewedvisions.org.
So it is that local audiences have been given the opportunity to witness Charles Campbell, a founder of the Skewed Visions theater company, don the glove and the identity of the mad doctor over the course of a series of performances at the Casket Arts building in northeast Minneapolis. Campbell’s stated goal is not to re-stage Kubrick’s film but to “bring Dr. Strangelove into our world right now.”
Campbell is known for the physicality of his conceptions and performances, and Strange Love is above all else a physical work. As an audience member, one is compelled to enter the ominous casket factory building, to be escorted into the basement by a white-faced and lab-coated Campbell, to submit to scrutiny in Sean Kelley-Pegg’s specially designed surveillance device, to grope one’s way through a maze of black plastic sheets, and to perch on a folding chair behind a rickety table. And then comes the blood.
Campbell assumes the persona of Strangelove using a brilliantly executed visual trick, and he gives a vigorous performance that ultimately involves scrambling beneath tables, hiding in a box, dragging himself under a wheelchair, and zipping himself into a body bag. In occasional dialogue with other characters from the film (a video projection of images including scenes from the film runs during much of the performance), Strangelove struggles to make sense of the world he finds himself in, a world in which the Cold War’s atmosphere of fear and suspicion has returned but in which the enemy is amorphous and the good/evil dichotomy has splintered.
While its themes are clear, the piece is largely without anything resembling a conventional plot or a tidy resolution. The message is that horror and madness are afoot, and it’s not clear what’s to be done except not to follow the instruction given by one of Campbell’s characters: “Trust the system.”