Review: deca go go

S tream of surrealism
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  January 29, 2009

If you're enjoying Elemental Theatre's wild and whimsical deca*go*go at Perishable Theatre (through March 1), you're not likely to be reminded of Elizabethan sonnets, but think about it. Having to create within limits, whether of rhyme and meter or theatrical restrictions, can sharpen the mind and the resulting wit.

For the third year, this imaginative theater collective is presenting what they call their Go-Go Play Festival. As in the past, two playwrights pulled five random elements out of a hat, using one in each of the 10 short plays, each written within three days. Writing them in sequence, the final image of each was to be the first of the next play, the sequence ending with the opening image. Dramaturge Melissa Rabinow was consulted in determining the linking images.

This year the subtitle of deca*go*go is The Exquisite Corpse Plays, giving credit to the 1920s Surrealist creative techniques for collaboration. That has added a colorful and entertaining visual element this time around, with the ensemble busying about between plays formally suited up under homburgs and mustaches like a gaggle of Salvatore Dalis and Rene Magrittes,with props such as black umbrellas and a green apple.

The overlapping elements are a mask, a disease, mice, torture, and a dirty joke. The alternating playwrights are Dave Rabinow and Alexander Platt. The director guiding the ensemble through this Alice in Wonderland labyrinth is Peter Sampieri, and the actors are Jillian Blevins, Elizabeth Gotauco, Jed Hancock-Brainerd, Michael A. LoCicero, Kelly Nichols, Rebecca Noon, and Christopher Rosenquest.

The opportunity for inventive playfulness is not neglected. In a 10-minute pre-show, a cigarette-dangling writer tapping at a typewriter amidst crumpled sheets of paper is surrounded by a cavorting band of the above-described absinthe-befuddled surrealists doing their assorted things, such as dancing, dabbing at a canvas, practicing card tricks, and staggering around drunk. They all claim to be "the real Avide Robinatt," the typing writer they are annoying. Their claim eventually is proved accurate in a delightful bit of theatrical imagery that I will not spoil by describing before you see it.

The lighthearted tone is continued with the opening, Rabinow's Mice, a sock-puppet exchange between two of the little critters. One of them is waxing philosophical as he looks up into the starry sky. Warned that an owl might get him, he pooh-poohs the threat, saying owls don't exist, that they were "just made up to keep us in line." The search for meaning continues with Platt's Brigsley & Quam-Quam, or Pity Poor Annie, Her Destiny Lies Not In the Stars But Somewhere Closer Like Our Hearts, in which two space aliens examining an earthling woman (Blevins) summarize her life by its incidental milestones. That depresses her more than a probing would. The concluding image that extends to the next playlet, Rabinow's Emmy, has her supine and defeated, as Gotauco replaces her as a woman lying unconscious in a hospital bed, fantasizing a conversation with an insensitive but fun-loving God.

You get the idea. Serious concerns are made palatable with humor, like vitamins in a crunchy sugar shell. The ancient Greek seer Tiresius (Hancock-Brainerd) in Rabinow's Stop Me If You've Heard This One isn't sure whether Hera blinded him for seeing her naked or for telling an especially bad joke.

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