Under the artistic directorship of Vanessa Gilbert, Perishable Theatre has dedicated itself to being a research theater, adopting a chemistry lab flask in its logo to emphasize the point. Along with the new plays that premiere during its regular season, Fledgling Festival III (through August 19), an annual showcase for emerging and lesser-known performers, demonstrates the Perishable spirit.
Housed next to AS220, where non-juried performances and art are presented year-round, the festival similarly gives performers a relatively pressure-free environment to shape their work and talent. The opening night audience on the first weekend certainly was supportive of acts that weren’t yet ready for prime time as well as work that was more polished.
The longest piece, at about a half-hour, was Amy Lynn Budd’s The Thing That Ate My Brain . . . Almost, directed by Con¬nie Crawford. Equal parts play, psychodrama, monologue, memoir, fantasy, and take-off on bad movies, it’s ostensibly directed by Ed Wood (Joe Henry), whose sci-fi film Plan 9 from Outer Space became a cult icon. Having Wood step out occasionally and give bad advice gives the serious subject matter a campy surrealism. Freelance theater director, producer, and performer Budd has a genetic disorder that has resulted in two brain tumors, among other symptoms.
The play ranges from speaking with a tumor in her head, in the form of a black-garbed and -wigged Voldemort (Sarah Lewis), to expounding on "the finer points of the history of neuro-imaging" — her mother had a similar operation in pre-MRI 1964, when air was injected into her brain to map the tumor site. We experience with Budd the tedium of a hospital stay (although friends are allowed to bring her Ben & Jerry’s) and the bizarre world of her dream life, in which she plays a blonde bombshell in a movie and is visited by a pirate decked out in litter from her floor. He fails to frighten her and sulks off pouting (Lewis’s funniest moment).
One crowd-pleaser was a sock puppet show written and performed by Nicole Maynard and Peter Deffet, the “curator” of the festival. In Fat Nancy & Crisco Episode #4: Won’t You Let Us Take You on a Sea(men) Cruise, the title characters are on a gay and lesbian cruise led by Rosie O’Donnell. Fat Nancy and Crisco chat and joke and frequently break into song. Crisco gets a crush on singer Josh Groban. Fat Nancy is treated to a guest appearance by a powder-faced Lindsay Lohan (Alana Pullman-Sousa) snorting a suspicious substance through a paper towel roll. Punch and Judy may have argued as raucously but they were never so hip.
Last Night At Bo-Ka-Bang, written and directed by Kevin Broccoli, is a play about creative integrity and the commercialism of the music business. Spencer (Charles LaFond) was a precocious rock ’n’ roll songwriter at age 10, but in his 20s he’s already passed his prime. At least that’s the opinion of Danny (James Hayward), the manager of the Bo-Ka-Bang nightclub, on the night of its closing. Despite the pleadings of Spencer’s agent Nicki (Julienne Penza), he won’t give the singer a slot in the line-up unless he jazzes up the act with some geeky thrills. As explorations of three self-centered and unsympathetic people go, the play struck me as overextended with little developed to show for it.
Moira and Sara Brady shot a short film titled My Mother the Messiah on the premise that their mom was always saying hilarious things. They were right. The camera was placed badly, with part of her face obscured by the hospital bed, but the elderly woman is a font of whimsy who deserves her own cable channel.
The other performances varied, to say the least. Lucia de Glamma-More did a burlesque routine that started out with her in a turquoise wig and Homeland Security trenchcoat and ended up with her sporting pasties. Rory Raven is a nightclub mentalist who did a mind-reading act that was quite a fascinating head-scratcher, unless he used shills. Peter Deffet improvised dance to a reading of Psalm 23. Vanessa Gilbert played accordion and sang “The Artistic Director’s Lament,” a droll account with such complaints as: “Another playwright’s gone Brooklyn/All my designers left me too/They’re chasing dreams, I’m making money/I’ll name my ulcer after you.”
Gilbert, Deffet, and Fat Nancy & Crisco will perform again during the closing week. For the lineup, go to www.perishable.org/show.htm.