STARVED FOR MEANING
Theatre Room,Winship Drama Bldg, UT
through April 6
Running time: 1 hr, 40 min
On a barren landscape sits a single gnarled tree. Time stands still or has practically no meaning. Two clowns enter and engage in a circuitous dialogue on life, love, and a next meal. The audience might be forgiven if it feels like it has mistakenly stumbled into the wrong theatre, but this is not Beckett's masterwork Waiting for Godot. In fact, Craving Gravy playwright John Walch professes a good-natured ignorance of Godot, which might explain why his play meanders aimlessly in its barren landscape while Beckett's exploration of existence fills the belly in spite of its barrenness. This is too bad, for without a strong script upon which to build, the many fine elements of this production feel as lost as the two clowns dragging about the bones of a dead comrade.
The production sets up expectations in all aspects of its presentation and fulfills almost none: Dramaturg Lisa D'Amour tries to give a frame for the play with intriguing information on creation mythology and a brief description of the literary term "magical realism" while director Kati Koerner ruminates on shamanism, introducing a sense of ritual, but in the writing lies little sense of more than the mythological environment. Designer Mark A. Ridgeway's set includes a full-size white screen that promises something cinematic but is only used for changing colors. (His floor treatment, a red desert, is a much stronger element, lit simply and evocatively by Amy Beth Deuchler.) Original music by Sxip goes furthest toward creating a sense of timelessness and myth with pulsating drums and chants. Each element clearly conceptualized and realized only connects with Walch's work tangentially. In such a difficult situation, the actors must pull the piece together, and here the production is most successful.
Michael Arthur and Amy L. Washburn are two heartwarming performers going full tilt from start to finish. They ground two characters who are more than mortal with delightful human frailty and desire. Arthur's Delroy is socially conscious, demanding, and strict as the intellect, all the while trying to cover his shortcomings. Washburn's Gilroy is all sensation, primarily hunger, and given to bouts of pleasure-inducing recollections. A third character, The Charmer, played elegantly by Chris J. Moreland, appears to be both orchestrator and participant in the events onstage, but mute and distant from the two clowns, he drifts about from task to task with a purpose known only to himself. He exemplifies the sense that there is knowledge deeply buried in this play, but it never quite rises to the surface where it can be shared with an audience. -- Robi Polgar
Leeds Gallery, UT campus
through August 15
When Don Bachardy became interested in portraiture while in art school in the 1950s, it was considered odd and eccentric; abstract expressionism was the trend of the day. The irony of this role reversal -- abstraction as the norm, portraiture as the stretch -- was elevated by the fact that Bachardy's portraits were innately simple, focusing on characterizations and features of the human face. And this he does with great passion and fervor.
"I am only interested in drawing and painting people, nothing else," Bachardy has said. In this meticulously specialized field, Bachardy has become a master, illustrating hundreds of famous writers, artists, and celebrities. Finishing each work in a single sitting and never going back for a retouch, Bachardy achieves, in a brief amount of time, amazing depth and detail. His works are usually black ink or paint on white paper, the images consisting of relatively few strokes of a pen or brush surrounded by whiteness. The lack of background forces the viewer to focus even more on small details, like John Huston's wayward eyebrow hairs and Igor Stravinsky's pocketed handkerchief.
The show's name, "Confrontations," must come from the notoriously scrutinizing style of drawing. Christopher Isherwood (see "Books" article, p.38), Bachardy's long-time companion, has said Bachardy "seems to be attacking the sitter" -- as he grips a back-up pen in his mouth throughout the sitting, he looks like "a pirate carrying a dagger between his teeth." Many of the characters look confronted, nervous and defensive, including journalist Janet Flanner, who appears untrusting and skeptical, and Allen Ginsberg, who seems anxious and edgy, with each hand grasping a knee.
A few of the models seem at ease. Anaïs Nin, although in her 60s, looks like a pixie-faced young girl; with her wide, trusting eyes, dainty, half-smiling lips, a ribbon holding up her hair, and a hand resting in her lap, she seems happy and relaxed, unfazed by the pirate with the pen putting her image down on paper. -- Cari Marshall
ACME ART AUCTION: FUN-RAISER
5512 Clay Ave.
April 5, 8-10pm
Tucked behind a cluster of antique stores on Burnet Road, next to a field full of towering purple martin birdhouses, lies a row of immense, corrugated metal buildings that look like hangars at a small airport. As you approach building A, you hear sounds similar to that of an airport garage -- whirring and screeching power tools and such -- but as you reach the door, you realize it's the sound of a man welding together what appears to be a coat rack. You have discovered the workspace of welder Eddie Meyers and the site of the ACME art auction, slated for this Saturday.
As Meyers welds away, Chuck Watson, the tenant who uses the cavernous workspace to assemble his huge foam sculptures (such as his enormous dresser and lamp crowning Top Drawer Thrift) and who has been hosting the auction since its inception six years ago, explains the goal of the annual fundraiser. "We have two rules: One is, every dollar that goes into making this happen must benefit the Paul Kirby Fund -- so everything from the food to the art must be donated -- and two is, it must be fun." The Paul Kirby Fund provides emergency financial assistance for people with AIDS; it is a fund that is constantly in need of repletion.
In the next few days, this raw, dusty space will transform into a gallery and auction house, displaying 40 pieces of original art donated by local and national artists and area businesses, including a painting by Thor; a cryptic, hand-written song by Exene Cervenka; and a sculpture by Sheri Tornatori. Many art genres are represented, although the auction has earned a reputation as a source for erotica. Your $5 donation gives you a shot at door prizes, auction items, hors d'oeuvres, beer, and DJ-spun music. Call
450-0117 for info. -- Cari Marshall
SUBURBIA: A POSITIVE `TUDE
through April 19
Running Time: 2 hrs, 15 min
One of my old high school teachers used to tell me that with a positive attitude, any job is already half finished. Of course, this is when I was going through my "I'm just a persecuted teenager on whose shoulders the weight of the world rests" phase, so the advice should have bounced off. But I guess it must have stuck in some small crevice of my consciousness, because it was the first thing that popped to mind when I started to think about subUrbia, The Company's new show.
The Company has more positive attitude than an Up With People convention. They love doing theatre. They want you to love watching what they do. And, most of the time, that mindset really gets you halfway there. It's fun to share an experience with folks having so much fun.
It's a shame that Eric Bogosian's script for subUrbia is such a downer and feels like a public television documentary on the plight of suburban early adults. Picture it, a bunch of late-twentysomethings, who have spent most of their lives hanging out in front of a convenience store, are caught by an audience doing, essentially, nothing. Sure, some have managed to leave the suburbs for short periods of time, but they always come back. It's like this particular mini-mart is the black hole of slack and the characters are powerless against its pull.
But Bogosian's words, while kind of depressing and, at times, amazingly melodramatic, are met with such fine performances that this show really zings right along. Joseph Gibson as Buff, a man obsessed with physical pleasure, and J. Damian Gillen as Jeff, a guy who lives only in his mind, shine with their sharp delivery and clear intentions. And newcomer Kim Heacock gives an intense performance as Bee-Bee despite her dearth of actual lines.
Even though the characters are unwilling to move forward, things do happen in front of Michael Stuart's ingeniously designed and meticulously crafted mini-mart. Beer and pot are consumed to Karen Carver-Sneed's souped-up and well-chosen sound design. Love is lost and found. An old high school friend who has made it quasi-big in the music industry, haltingly played by Ronnie Moore, drops in for a visit and forces some action from these folks who have proven Newton's law of inertia.
The choice of this script seems like it should fly in the face of The Company's go-get-'em attitude toward theatre. Instead, it vibrantly gives life to a potentially lifeless situation and is contagious.
-- Adrienne Martini