Monday, January 16, 2012

What Price for a Cold Beer?, 9/16/08

Radiohole's ANGER/NATION at The Kitchen

Radiohole breaks with traditional forms of theater, so it seems fair that a written treatment reflect this. ANGER/NATION is at The Kitchen through Sep 27 (SPOILER ALERT: contains plot and production details).
ANGER = Kenneth, filmmaker, delves into the occult and subconscious, rich with symbols.
ANGER/NATIONNATION = Carry A., a 19th-century “temperance crusader” who wielded an axe in bars.
Three guys (Eric Dyer, Iver Findlay, Scott Halvorsen Gillette) in frat boy Roman/mythology costumes fill steins with beer from a keg. Enough for audience, plus seconds. Rowdy entreaties to drink up. Audience willingly obeys, shouting back at the performers.
Set: metal trusses form a proscenium, pushed way downstage. A steep ramp leads upstage, good for dramatic E&Es. Like Wooster Group while drinking. Zip ties hold it all together.
Crap all over the place. Electronic equipment that’s operated by the performers, mics on stands, shower curtains, beer serving detritus, gold beer bottles everywhere, red buddy lights filled with water, a cluster of colored bulbs over the ramp entrance. A projected moon hangs high.
A giant bouquet of mini video screens bursts from that same portal. Fleeting images: lips, a torso, textures. Perhaps some clips by Anger? The arms that hold them are flexible and sway in the fog. People drink and cough. Two horizontal rectangular screens show rear projected video, mainly tree branches, weather, nature, self-consciously arty stuff.
The house rumbles with the heavy bass sound score, creating a dreamy fourth dimension.
Nation (Maggie Hoffman) wears Victorian clothes; blood drips from mouth/cleavage. The two male cupids in corsets (one’s genitals hang out, charmingly), scream and dance as Nation’s story is told. She chops a bottle in half.
The two cupids put on wigs and spangly flair. One smears mud on legs, attaches a long phallus. Read random lists of stuff like Cadillac, honey bun, etc. In a scene so long it feels like time stops, they take turns “shooting” one another in their carefully poised butts. Dream turns into nightmare.
Hoffman enters, nude from protuberant belly down, with an elaborate Viking headdress/wig. Seems to have had an epiphany and has transformed from Carry Nation into a sybarite. Performers arrange themselves like Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe and/or an Odalisque painting. Lounge music and blues play, “ironically.”
House lights up, the two guys sit casually on stools with mics, talking as if it were an artist’s discussion, except it’s Orwellian, or one might say Palin-ian, saying important words in long paragraphs full of pregnant pauses, but actually saying nothing. After a few minutes, people go to the keg for refills. The men blather on self-importantly as I leave. Perhaps the joke was on me, but I am free and they are not.
Epiphany: Beer meant bathroom trips for about half the audience during the show. Which, the way The Kitchen is set up, means these folks became part of the performance. Questions raised: in the end, are we driven only by imperatives of life? That we cannot control our fate once actions have been put in motion? That the potential inebriation/thirst-slaking far outweighs the task of stumbling down and up the risers mid-show? In other words, are you willing to make a fool of yourself for a stein of beer?
The answer… Carry A. Nation would not be happy about it, but Kenneth Anger might be.

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