Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
bobrauschenbergamerica: A play by Charles L. Mee in the spirit of Rauschenberg's art. A collage of disparate plot threads, bizarre events, stand-alone monologues, and ridiculous non-sequiturs, jumbled together to bridge the gap between art and life.
Note-taking, I found, was a useless act. A woman begins, narrating a slideshow, but the slides we see projected on the wall behind her are not the images she's describing. A prim woman dressed in pink and wearing white gloves finds herself incredibly attracted to a homeless guy living in a cardboard box. A man wearing a towel and a shower cap sings "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" into a giant whisk, while the entire ensemble joins in to sing and dance backup. A young woman spends the entire show on roller skates, saying not a word, but gamely participating in every dance number. A man, fully clothed, sits in a rusty bathtub (with a "No Parking" sign on it) and discusses where he'd like to have sex with his girlfriend. A man in a chicken suit crosses the stage, while an unseen narrator says, "A man in a chicken suit crosses the stage."
And that's not even scratching the surface. Perhaps your mind wanders over the set, decorated with found objects and cardboard boxes (one improbably labelled "Cheese"). Or to the fact that the red stripes on the top of Roller Girl's white knee socks make her shins look an awful lot like that giant bowling pin off in the corner. This is the sort of show that makes you think, "was I supposed to see that connection?" and then, "whether they intended it or not, I'm supposed to see whatever connections I see."
Some of the scenes are brilliant. A late-show monologue about forgiveness (by a pizza delivery guy) is captivating. The transformation of some plastic sheeting into an alcohol-drenched slip 'n' slide is joyously full of the sensual pleasures of life. And on the occasions when all of these charactersfrom all of their different universescome together to support each other in their endeavors (whatever they may be), the sense of community is downright comforting.
The problem is that it goes on too long. Nearly two hours for a single act of largely unrelated vignettes is a very long time to ask the audience to stay with you, especially when there's no traditional plot, so there's nothing really at stake. (One particular scene, in which one character has the others act out parts in a movie script he's written, goes on much too long all by itself.) Long before the play ends, you're wishing it will alreadywhile you're simultaneously entranced by the next image.
To some degree, the length is necessary. The first time the woman with the slideshow tells us, "Art was not a part of our lives," it's unbelievably sad. But by the third or fourth time she says it, you've seen a man folding his linens stop to dance with his sheet, and it finally hits you that art was a part of her life, because art truly is everywhere, and if you have life, you have art. And a play that can get you there in two hours is something that Rauschenberg would probably have been very happy to have his name on.
bobrauschenbergamerica runs at [Inside] the Ford through February 28, 2010. For tickets and information, see www.FordTheatres.org.
The SpyAnts present bobrauschenbergamerica. Written by Charles L. Mee; Directed by Bart DeLorenzo. Producer Lori Evans Taylor; Set Design Marina Mouhibian; Lighting Design Christopher Kuhl; Costume Design Leah Piehl; Assistant Chicken Design Jesse Ayala; Prop Master Hal Perry; Sound Design Cricket Myers; Choreography Ken Roht; Publicity Lucy Pollak; Photography Debi Landrie and Jeff E Photo; Graphic Design Josh Worth.