StallGraffiti ATX throws short, original plays from local writers into a full-length variety show that revolves thematically around the porcelain palace
Reviewed by Heather Barfield Cole, Fri., June 17, 2005
Blue Theater, through June 25
Running time: 2 hrs
Graffiti on bathroom stalls writ wisdom or stupidity on their walls. Colloquialisms and pop-culture jargon mix chaotically with silly love notes and hearts inked with first names. A name and phone number for a good time evoke mysterious intimacy with paradoxical anonymity. Who are these people? Why would someone scribe "Henry Kissinger is a War Criminal" in a bathroom? Perhaps adjacent to those words on the dirty board is the offensive yet clever "Life's a dick. When it gets hard, fuck it." Both these phrases are fodder for original scripts in a chick and a dude productions' audacious StallGraffiti ATX. Austin has ample wall space in its ubiquitous relieving rooms in multiple music venues where the most colorful language tends to appear. It is decidedly witty and appropriate then that a chick and a dude explores avenues of creativity inspired by the many voices stained on perpendicular scribble canvases. StallGraffiti ATX throws short, locally written plays of varying styles and concepts together into a full-length production much like a variety show that revolves thematically around the porcelain palace.
Water bottles act as bladders with performers squeezing the liquid into the toilets on stage in sighs of relief. Between transitions, actors energetically push walls and plumbing resting on wheels. The backdrop is splattered with grimy gray-dark colors and scrawlings; the floor looks sticky and dank. Reminiscing on the ugly aesthetic of a public toilet, Melissa Livingston and Andrea Skola go plunging into an appropriately gross set design.
Sharon Sparlin's opening scene with an obsessively long title has actors in lab coats spinning dialogue like a fast bullet as they discuss the scientific phenomenology of toilet bowl water movement. Robert Fisher's script reveals a slacker convenience store clerk's weed-influenced philosophical ponderings on the tactless "All y'all bitches got AIDS, dumb bitches." Dan Dietz's writing made Donald Rumsfeld into a rock star wannabe in punk rock uniform and mohawk and President Bush a narcissistic woman proclaiming "hope is for little girls," not a national agenda. In Matt Hislope's "Metowksi vs. Muhn," we see an absurdist match between glittered masked men in underwear and offstage hear tap dancing noises and voices syncing with the action. Jason Tremblay's "Welcome to the Great Whatever" has actors Kelsey Kling and Brock England in a play of sexual power, tension, and release while under the guise of identities unlike their natural born selves.
Presenting 11 playwrights' works in one night challenges the audience to switch gears every time actors perform a different script. Although we are probably used to the swift changes in media through channel surfing or fast edits, stage performances need some time to linger and process. I only mention this because a good number of the scripts are eloquent, dense, thoughtfully written, and splendidly performed, and some are worth seeing again for their incisiveness. Under the holistic direction of Andrea Skola, we experience a night of bathroom profundity and bizarre inanity, not unlike the graffitied walls themselves.