Sunday, August 02, 2009

Subversive Theatre Collective: When things get Hairy

No full-fledged Scene Report for this, the final day of the festival, because I wasn't part of any particular "scene" today. Despite my best intentions, outside factors intervened and I never even made it down to Allen Street at all. The closest I got was the Great Arrow Building, which this year, thanks to the Alt and Manny Fried Theatres, took the place of Rust Belt as the primary venue for live theater (a smart and understandable move, but, as one festivalgoer pointed out to me midweek, it does take away a bit of the centrally-located aspect of the early years of BIF). There was no way I could let the festival end without seeing the latest project from by its once and future Pooh-Bah, Kurt Schneiderman, and his Subversive Theatre Company.

I have vague memories of reading The Hairy Ape in or around high school, but other than the basic premise and the ending, not much of it stuck with me. And I confess I've never quite gotten America's Greatest Playwright, despite repeated attempts. Even so, I trusted that the Subversives would do something ... well, subversive, with the play.

No disappointment there! From the full-out opening surprise (which I won't spoil) to the live music score by Pat Cain and Gabriel Gutierrez to the overall framing device of "the Burn 'em & Bail 'em Circus," this is easily the most fun you're ever likely to have at an O'Neill play. (It's sinister fun, mind you, but still.) The relatively large cast of familiar and unfamiliar faces is something I've almost come to expect from Subversive projects, and I'm always amazed at how many talented actors Schneiderman manages to find and work with. I'll single out ringmaster Brian Zybala and protagonist Patrick Cameron, each an intense presence in his own way, by name, but pretty much everybody else is called upon to play multiple roles and does so with captivating ease. This particular production is practically a dance piece at times, and there are inventive bits of stage business every couple of minutes. (It's a noisy show, in more ways than one, and at times I had trouble hearing or following the main storyline because of all the hoopla on the sidelines.) Given its staging, I can easily envision this show being mounted in, say, 1967, but that's not to say it doesn't feel fresh and alive in our current era of burnout and bailout. (And face it: 1967 was a pretty cool time to see a play.)

As luck would have it, if you missed Ape during the festival proper, you can still catch it this coming Thursday through Saturday--if you're not already burnt out on artgoing for a while. Lord knows I might be, and I'll be happily taking a break from seeing stuff for at least a week or two. With that in mind, even though I only made it to one show today, I'm glad my own experience of Infringement 09 ended with a bang, not a whimper.

1 comment:

chris uebbing said...

Thanks for the heads-up about the continuation...I missed out during the festival; glad to know I can make amends!!!!!