Damn Everything But the Circus

The arrival of intermission at Cirque du Soleli’s Quidam comes as a somewhat disarming surprise. The classical circus feats and arena-worthy hippie tricks that make up the show are so packed with show-stopping moments that the dropping of jaws and clapping of hands becomes nearly perpetual. When the mid-show break occurs the applause does not crescendo. It fades slowly and unsurely, the audience only beginning to recover from a spectacle-induced stupor. Continue reading “Damn Everything But the Circus”

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The Absence of Desire

Howard Barker is a sixty-four-year-old enfant terrible.  He is a playwright who does not believe in collaboration, who has no interest in sympathetic characters, and who dismisses politics in theater.  And he is ruthlessly attached to the idea that “a good play puts the audience through a certain ordeal” while a good author “produce[s] a character who creates anxiety.”  Unsurprisingly, his paintings (yes, he paints) look like this and his plays look like this. Continue reading “The Absence of Desire”

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

In a letter to Professor George R. Noyes of UC Berkeley, Vladimir Nabokov declared, “[I] am prepared to fight to the last drop of my ink … the deliberate moralizing which to me kills every vestige of art in a work however skillfully written.”  I tend to agree with Nabokov, though Bill W. and Dr. Bob, a play about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, presents an interesting case.  The authors, Sam Shem and Janet Surrey, come across as sincere if overzealous moralizers who believe that A.A. will liberate the world’s drunks from their disease, and the play works less as a work of theater and more as a two and a half hour advertisement for the miracles of rehabilitation: the program is littered with advice on starting twelve step programs, while the theater bar is stocked with Coca Cola and coffee.  “They locked up the liquor,” a patron joked at intermission. Continue reading “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”

Kind of Like Making Cupcakes

In the decaying, Midwestern town of Rantoul, Illinois, the word “tenderhearted” seems to really mean “sissy.”  Rallis (Derek Ahonen) is tenderhearted.  Fresh out of a marriage that is clearly over to everyone except Rallis, he spends his days moaning on the couch, eating handfuls of off-brand Fruit Loops, and seeking solace in the wisdom of his friend Gary (Matthew Pilieci).  This is probably a bad decision, and not just because Gary is sleeping with his soon-to-be-ex-wife Debbie (Sarah Lemp).  Sporting a Miami Heat cap and a goatee that surely reeks of cigarettes and beer, Gary is a self-described student of Eastern “philosophies.”  He is an odd mix of earnestness, self-reflection, violent immaturity, and idiocy, so it comes as no surprise when, late in the play, he begins a sentence by saying, “As I was laying on top of you, choking the life out of you, I realized…”  Debbie is “full time at the DQ” and not really a terrible person; she’s just being suffocated by Rallis’ impotent kindness.  After a botched suicide attempt—that involves not one but two barely-missed shots to the head—Rallis is left a vegetable, and the general manager of the DQ, Callie (Vanessa Vaché), comes by to help out.  She’s a Jesus freak who lives with her mom and is kept afloat by a sea of cats (fourteen by the latest count) with a perky, annoyingly positive demeanor. Continue reading “Kind of Like Making Cupcakes”