A cocktail of a performance about what it means to send a letter
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., Dec. 23, 2011
Poste RestanteSalvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.
Poste Restante, from Boston-based company They Gotta Be Secret Agents, is a cocktail of a performance. It encompasses movement, dance, and puppetry, and while it may lack spoken dialogue, its two performers engage in a thoughtful exchange and a sweet little narrative.
Do you remember the last time you received a letter – an actual, handwritten, stamped-and-addressed letter – in the mail? The feeling of receiving a personal note, prepared with thought and consideration, in the midst of bills and junk mail, is very much like attending a performance of Poste Restante. A busy week packed with work and other obligations makes room for a brief time of playful, gentle ideas. Company members Bonnie Duncan and Tim Gallagher perform their movement and puppetry show in and around the idea of letters, what it is to send a thought to someone else in a way that is painstaking and possibly tedious, but all the more special for it.
Using terms such as "sweet," "playful," and "gentle" runs the risk of diminishing the work as fragile and unimportant. It may not be explosive or earthshaking, but Poste Restante is still vital and exciting to watch. Perhaps the best word for it is "kind." It's a performance comforting to the eye and the brain. Really, isn't it all right to spend an evening considering how nice it is to have a friend in the world to whom it's worth writing? It ought to be.
And good grief, the U.S. Postal Service totally needs to sponsor these guys if they want to encourage Americans to start sending mail again.
Poste Restante has, alas, already departed Austin. Yet Austin-based companies like Trouble Puppet Theater and Glass Half Full Theatre, who jointly sponsored the Secret Agents' visit, and other groups like Fusebox and Vortex Repertory have made a concerted effort in recent years to bring intriguing, high-quality work to Austin. It's a win-win for audiences here. If you keep your eyes open, you can catch some fascinating work, and when companies you like host work by artists whom they admire, there's a pretty good chance that the show in question is going to be a strong one. It's like having a personal arts shopper: Find companies in town whose work you enjoy and rely on them to find the fascinating, often under-the-radar pieces brought to the stage in Boston, New York, or San Francisco.
And then, when they let you know that they are bringing some friends of theirs to town to perform a show, don't wait. Go see the thing!