Dispatches From the Edge
Rounding Up the 2001 FronteraFest Long Fringe
Short Fringe Special"This is Not Japan, God Dammit"
by Julia, Otis, Paul, and Eric
Wednesday, January 24
As the lights come up, the tapping begins, like rain on a window or an old typewriter. In fact, it is a sex toy hopping madly around the stage like some horny jumping jack. At center stage, a woman slowly emerges from the cocoon of her blankets. Shedding clothes, she raises herself as if from the grave, her skin glowing with dull colors: red leg, blue arm, yellow torso, white face. Elements are added: A man wanders out with a saxophone, his face a deep red; his music speaks to her, covering her, reviving her, amusing her, threatening her. Their dance is raw, their communication palpable. Words eluded the four performers in "This is Not Japan, God Dammit," but music (in the form of sax, trumpet, and drum) came to their aid. So did the methodical hand of the cook at stage right who spent the entire 20-minute performance preparing a simple meal of chicken, rice, tofu, and vegetables lightly seasoned with sesame and garlic in a reasonable approximation of Japanese cuisine. It was the same for the piece as a whole: Julia, Otis, Paul, and Eric (as they were listed in the program) took the stage like rebellious upstarts on Iron Chef. With a rough grab bag of ingredients -- aging, adolescent masturbation fantasies, memory's connection to the senses, Japanese cultural iconography, buffoonery -- they whipped up a free-form performance soup both delicate and spirited. Walking the line between arbitrary and inspired, they located themselves not in Japan, but in a landscape of the mind. Call it theatre in the raw for the cartographically challenged: Sometimes you felt lost, but ultimately there was no map required.