Sunday, April 29, 2007

A sad little medium struggling to be heard

That sad little medium (to quote from the brilliant Canadian series Slings & Arrows, which I've belatedly discovered) is theater, of course. It's true that its voice can get lost in our current maelstrom of media offerings, but its potential wonders remain unmatched. Emphasis on potential here, because we all know you have to kiss a lot of frogs to chance upon a prince.

The latest batrachian I encountered was Aldo Perez's The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The, which I caught Friday night at the brand-spanking-new 3 Legged Dog Theater. (I also saw Legally Blonde and LoveMusik over the weekend, but more on mastodons those later.) On the plus side, the production makes a genuine effort to develop a specific aesthetic drawing from silent movies, Dada and Richard Foreman—as a friend put it, it reeked of NYU's Experimental Theatre Wing. And it was gratifying to discover a genuine stage presence in Jenny Lee Mitchell, who moves with the precision of a screwball comedienne, possesses an impressive vocal range and even plays the clarinet. But Perez seems blissfully unaware that it's doubly hard to capture your audience's interest without a narrative: You have to compensate with ideas and visuals and soundscapes, not tired vaudevillian shtick, mugging and feeble dick jokes. But hey, those got laughs, and common wisdom has it that the customer's always right, so who am I to begrudge?

À propos of Slings & Arrows, it's obvious that the fictional New Burbage Festival theater where the series is set is inspired by Stratford, but I found it hard not to thing of BAM, especially in the third episode of the first season, when Mark McKinney's general manager escapes to a weekend in Toronto and discovers the delights of Mamma Mia! after a steady diet of mediocre Shakespeare at his own institution. There is such a thing as too much Bard, and BAM is running right into that wall.

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