Saturday, December 10
Friday, December 9
The first thing I had to say after staggering out of Forced Entertainment's "Bloody Mess" at OTB was "OMIFUCKINGGOD!"
And I meant it in a good way!
Alan Alda played a cheeseball tv director in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors", and he kept saying over and over "Y'see, comedy is funny when it bends- when it breaks, it's not funny." (And then- to prove the point- he said it about 5 times during the film). Well, Forced Entertainment sure learned that lesson- this show bends, and bends, and bends, and just keeps bending. You think- "they're going to stop this bit right about now, right?...OK, NOW they're going to stop it- I mean, CHRIST, no one would continue with this bit past this point, right?...OK- it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE that ANYONE would be ballsy enough to continue with this longer then now....How long has this been going on? Have they ACTUALLY been doing basically this SAME BIT for EIGHT MINUTES NOW?" and on and on and on...
And I do mean all that in a good way. They were like jack rabbits running out in the desert- knowing JUST THAT PRECISE MOMENT to bolt for it in front of a speeding car and miss getting run over, and they did it over and over.
Besides the superb timing in speech, there was also great precision in movement and use of space. While often what was going on seemed absolutely chaotic, it was clear that a great deal of care had gone into choreographing the ensemble over the OTB boards. I loved that while the hurricane was often blowing, there'd be one or two characters simply sitting, facing the audience to throw you off.
As I said to a friend upon leaving "It's impossible to think that tomorrow, they're going to start with a clean stage and it's going to start all over". I'm tempted to go and find out.
Hi there... we had a couple of Stranger staff members in the audience opening night who posted their reviews of the show on the Stranger's SLOG - Look for Brendan Kiley's "Bloody Mess" and Christopher Frizzelle's "More on those dicks" and the comments for each.
After the opening night performance of ‘Bloody Mess,’ a theater veteran I know said to me, ‘There are children starving in Somalia right now, and these guys are throwing popcorn around.’ He paused. ‘And I really hate it when they throw candy.’ I agree. We’re making and watching theater in an age when the problems humanity faces are so insistent that we may not be able to ignore them – even if we make a play about the end of the world. Perhaps Bloody Mess is a piece about the failure of the magic of theater to redeem, illuminate - or even, anymore, to distract us much. Moments of clear, ringing beauty do shine, like the truly (as opposed to falsely) dropped-down musings on the many varieties of silence of Jerry Killick and especially Davis Freeman; these moments also point out the rote self-consciousness of some of the other performances. More problematic for me than the uneven, seemingly default-mode performance qualities of some of the cast was the removed, fairy-tale quality of John Rowley’s climactic story. Layered with trick upon trick (lots of fog, for example, and cranked music), telling the fictional end of the world becomes a chaotic theatrical spectacle, but one that seemed to me to reveal its intellectual planning too easily, and weirdly more related to Hollywood movies than, well, reality. Structured catharsis seems like a meager – and maybe outdated – substitute for something else…action, maybe?
FROM DAVID SCHMADER
The UK is being very nice to Seattle this week. Over at the Moore, exceedingly affable Brit Dave Gorman is spinning his dazzling "Googlewhack Adventure," while OTB is hosting the equally dazzling-but-in-an-entirely-different-way (or maybe a dozen different ways) Forced Entertainment, whose "Bloody Mess" I saw last night.
How to describe it? It's a staggering (literally and figuratively) explosion of theatrical activity, featuring blasts of hard rock, a gorilla mime, a middle-aged cheerleader, lots of charming British understatement, a couple wangs, a few boobs, and at least one legitimately menacing clown.
Then there's the smoke machine. History will forever remember opening night of "Bloody Mess" as "the night the fire alarm cleared the house," and while I understand that such an incident is something of a nightmare for the event planners, it's a night I'll never forget and of which I'm so happy to have gotten to experience. Really, after the hour of ace theatrical chaos I'd witnessed, I was fully ready to accept the house-clearing fire alarm as an ingenious intermission-creating device. Turns out I was wrong, but still, it takes a special kind of show to warps your perception so thoroughly.
Go see it.
Thursday, December 8
Hey out there. It's 1 a.m. Why aren't any of you lazy-ass bloggers done writing yet?
Regina Hackett - Art Critic
Long on Charm...
If you've seen any of the various theater companies -- call them 'alternative' or 'avant garde' or 'non-narrative' or whatever -- who have come to On the Boards over the years (for example, Ultima Vez, the Wooster Group, Gob Squad, Elevator Repair Service, needCompany -- or some of the homegrown troupes like the Compound, 33 Fainting Spells, or Run/Remain), then Forced Entertainment won't reveal anything new to you. All of these groups use pretty much the same bag of tricks (that's not dismissive; narrative artists use bag of tricks as well, just different ones) -- the layering of sound and visual spectacle to manipulate mood; the evocation of emotion, which is undercut or left unfulfilled; self-referentiality; performers who play stylized versions of themselves instead of "characters" in the usual sense; and other techniques and approaches that -- among other goals -- make you and them more fully aware of the individual moment as it happens, that encourage you to feel the fabric of theatrical time the way a seamstress might feel the silk of a wedding dress between her fingers.
Forced Entertainment do not use this bag of tricks particularly well. They are far too dependent on stretching bits out through repetition (drawn-out speeches about fucking or crying, lengthy bouts of sloppy wrestling) or aggressive triviality (arguing about the accuracy of digital vs. analog clocks, or the correct pronunciation of Uranus) or paper-thin self-referentiality (the show closes with a performer describing the stage picture as it happens; she has a lovely voice and a fluid, charismatic presence, but it's a woefully weak way to end a show). They seem obsessed with subverting any accumulating mood or momentum to the point of excluding any other subject, theme, or material.
This is not to say there weren't some very enjoyable parts; the first twenty minutes or so are bang on, engaging, witty, cleverly structured, delightful. It continues to be fairly fun for a while after that -- attractive people get naked, there's a smoke machine and big silver stars, cheerleader pom-poms, a gorilla costume -- what's not to like? And everything is made more charming by accents and that innate British hint of surliness. But by the time the show was over, I realized I was enjoying much of it because it had promised to get more interesting than it was at that moment -- funnier, spookier, smarter, sexier, more layered, more athletic, more complex, more nuanced, just more in general. If I had left after the fire alarm went off (about an hour into the show) and the building had to be briefly evacuated, I would have thought highly of the performance; but we returned to an hour and a half that, while it had its moments -- personally, I liked the lengthy discussion of different kinds of silence -- it largely squandered the built-up good will by simply not going any further and taking a long time to not do it.
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