Winnemucca (Three Days in the Belly)

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by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low | 8/1/09 • Well. I found a show to completely blow me away on the first night.

This is a loose adaptation of the Book of Jonah, which consists of the prophet being locked in a windowless hotel room and being taunted and abused by a mysterious jailor, whose sole purpose seems to be to try to break him down — emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. And about ten minutes in, it struck me — holy shit. They’re really trying to approach the source material with this.

The dialogue is by turns witty, poetic, and profane; the set is simple but evocative (and the Minneapolis Theatre Garage is absolutely the perfect venue for them); the acting is uniformly excellent. If all of the production values weren’t excellent, I suspect that this would fall apart almost immediately; but they are, and it doesn’t.

womb with a view is the blog of phillip andrew bennett low, one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival and other theater for the daily planet.

Okay. There’s no way I can effectively talk about my experience of this show outside of my context as a man of faith, so I’m just going to go ahead and do that.

I found this to be a compelling portrait of what I would call the terror of humility; the terror and awe that you experience and encountering an intellect greater than your own; and the self-doubt that emerges from that. The constant questioning of Did I imagine that? or Can I allow my life to be defined by a single experience? and Am I simply spiritualizing some kind of chemical imbalance in my own brain?

Okay, but I also don’t know that recognition of this experience is limited to religion. I suspect that it’s the same emotion described by scientists who are overcome with awe at the unfathomable complexity of the universe they study (whether they regard it as a creation or otherwise). It’s the terror of recognizing a cause that is larger than yourself, and the kind of rigorous self-analysis that has to result for those with intellectual integrity: How much of what I do is to serve a greater cause? How much of what I do is to serve myself, with benefit to others serving as a kind of rationalization allowing me to do what I want? How important are my ideals to me? How important are my ideals to me really? Would I die for them? Is it completely irrational (and possibly unethical) for me to try to hold an abstract principle above human life?

So of course I loved it — it’s asking some pretty damn heady questions in some pretty damn dense and poetic language. So, yeah — I’ve noticed it’s been picking up some less-than-stellar reviews on the site, and, yeah, some members of the audience were shuffling uncomfortably in their seats. I gave them a standing ovation at the end of the show. I was the only one. I don’t care; what they did for me — emotionally, intellectually, spiritually — deserved it. They’re only here ’til Wednesday, folks — catch it while you can.

Phillip Andrew Bennett Low (maximumverbosityonline@gmail.com) is a playwright and poet, storyteller and mime, theater 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 theater troupe that is in a state of constantly re-defining itself.

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