Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos (Fringe '06 Experience #2)

UPDATE: The Deepest Play Ever won a Fringe Award for Outstanding Playwright (Geoffrey Decas). Congratulations to Geoffrey and everyone at CollaborationTown!

I'm becoming more and more convinced month after month that we really have zombies on the brain.

My second Fringe experience marks my second CollaborationTown show of the year. Their show, of course, is the third I've seen this year (not including my own) that features zombies.

The group that came up with the excellent They're Just Like Us and 6969 (which I haven't seen and therefore can't comment on), both presented earlier this year, is staging The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos, The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Allegory of Mother LaMadre and Her Son, Golden Calf; or, If no Industry See My Silent Scream Does it Make a Sound?; or, Zombies Will Eat Your Brains! Play 1 of an 800 Play Cycle Deconstructing Violence, written by Geoffrey Decas and directed by Ryan Purcell, at the Village Theatre.

For the rest of the entry, Let's just call it The Deepest Play Ever.

What's the play about? Well, the incarnation of Time (Phillip Taratula), dressed in tights and clown makeup, serves as the play's (deliberately ineffectual) narrator and shows the audience a post-post-apocalyptic world (as one of the subtitles implies) where New Europe has been decimated after World War V. An Evil Empire rules whatever remains of a land plagued with the walking dead (yup, zombies) and is on a mission to destroy all the remaining works of art (so people can be more easily manipulated).

A band of "anti-heroes," led by Mother LaMadre (played by Chinasa Ogbuagu), travels through the scorched land in search of lost works of art in order to preserve and protect them. Meanwhile, a failed hack artist, Dalvador Sali (Mr. Decas), with the help of Yvette La Guerre (Jessma Evans), is also hunting down lost artworks in order to destroy them (hell hath no fury like a pedantic hack artist). Their paths cross, then separate, then cross again, and...you know what? This is about as close to coherent-sounding as I can make it. If I go any further, this'll just be a mess (there's among other elements a character that has a giant albatross tied around his neck, a heroic knightly character who keeps ripping his shirt open, a visit to the underworld and an absolutely adorable Satan puppet) that I won't be able to piece together (more on this in a moment).

Through puppetry, multi-media, musical numbers and fight sequences, CollaborationTown has put on a damn fun show despite that it doesn't quite add up to anything. (One of the subtitles' jokes that this is the first of an 800-part play cycle. I guess when there are theoretically 799 other plays to come [heh, heh] you don't have to worry about a resolution to the first one.)

At one point in the second act, Time-As-Narrator loses his train of thought and is accused by another character of losing the story's thread. Although a funny scene, there's more than a kernel of truth in there that pinpoints one of the play's problems. (Time-As-Narrator: "Back and forth these scenes go. I'm getting tired.") And true, I wish there was more fighting with zombies, but of course I always wish there was more fighting with zombies.

Despite all this, we're just supposed to go with the flow and not add all the pieces up, which is fine by me. As CollaborationTown has described the show:

"The [characters] navigate all the pitfalls of self-important Epic Theatre: puppets, projections, prostitutes, prophecies, the angel of death, blood, deconstruction, rapidly-approaching fate, soliloquies, singing, dancing, zombie battles, and actors trying to out-Brecht each other. Featuring irony more ironic than irony, satire more satiric than satire, and sardon more sardonic than sardon."

So there you go.

Although indebted to a number of plays and playwrights (the works of Brecht, Shakespeare and Marlowe being the most obvious), the play that I was most reminded of with Mr. Decas and Mr. Purcell's show was the National Theater of the United States of America's Abacus Black Strikes Now: The Rampant Justice of Abacus Black, which played at PS 122 earlier this year. Although CollaborationTown's show is not quite as impressive as the N.T.U.S.A.'s, it's still a damn fun time and obviously in the "Right Up My Alley" Department (yeah, a play featuring zombies and puppets is one of the closest paths to my heart, in case you haven't noticed).

So far, I'm pretty relieved that I'm two-for-two now with the Fringe (in terms of seeing things that I found to be worth my while). Tonight I'm going to attempt to see MariaColacoDance's Eye Candy (I say "attempt" because I haven't bought my ticket and will have to do so at the door). Let's see how that fares.

Pushing his luck,

James "Pedantic Hack Artist" Comtois

Ps. For tickets to The Deepest Play Ever click here.


Anonymous Mac said...

Hi James!

I saw a terrific zombie-themed play back in January called "Abacus Black Strikes Now."

I might try to see a Fringe show called "The Revenants" that sounds like a supercool zombie play. It only just started and I've seen no reviews as yet. There's a writeup by the playwright here:


And of course next month EVIL DEAD: The Musical arrives...

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I gotta check this stuff out - Ireland and Scot going away has limited my theatre going experience.

And, wishing I could line up now for Evil Dead the musical.

11:58 AM  

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