Words in action

Wild Porcelain lives up to its name
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  December 4, 2007
COMMUNICATING: Haddad and Munoz.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where a lot of wacky things don’t make much sense, but your psyche is having such a good time pumping them out that you wake up shaking your head laughing? You have? Whew! Then you might enjoy Wild Porcelain as much as I did.
The Workhorse theater ensemble is staging the production at Perishable Theatre (through December 9), and having an antic time of it. They clearly are not under effective adult supervision, despite being directed by Stephen Buescher.
But you’ve assumed that already if you saw his and Workhorse’s production last year of their manic play With Claws and Beak at the Carriage House. Like the current play, it was constructed Mabou Mines-style, with participating actors developing the story line and adding their own embellishments and dialogue as the rehearsal/development process continued.
At the end of this play, the stage is littered with everything from Styrofoam peanuts and tangles of toilet paper twists to broken crockery — oh, and a dead body. Devolving into such chaos is appropriate, since the play starts out as a metaphor for the journey of life, and we know where that always ends up.
On the trek are a couple of ragtag young women wearing medieval caps that make them look like characters from Bruegel or Bosch. They are connected/entangled by a tattered red cord that is mostly metaphorical, indicating mutual dependence, but also practical: they are wandering through a mountainous area, excitedly heading toward a mountaintop.

Well, I guess I have to break it to you sometime: the first half of this play is entirely in Castilian Spanish and Dutch, as Pot (Esther Haddad) and Hildegarda (Laura Munoz) bicker and converse. Not until a half-hour along does a character enter who speaks English.
Calm down. Don’t stop reading. That decision by the playmakers wasn’t to set a new Guinness record for avant-garde theatrical obfuscation. It was to instruct us, more effectively than any academic essay could, about what communication in theater really is.
As we watch these two argue and hesitate, back off fearfully or march ahead bravely, we see how their words are merely decorations for their actions. If we understood everything each said (and there are plenty of English cognates dropped like breadcrumbs to help us follow — “Mi territorio! Para mi!” — we wouldn’t be vastly more informed.
On their surreal Everywoman journey, they encounter a recurring quartet. Three figures at first wear squalling-baby face masks, nursed by a single-breasted guardian with a flower pot for a head, perhaps a kind of apprentice Mother Earth. They return twice, the trio now middle-aged women and later hunched crones.
Eventually a flamboyant character called Bundus (Emilia Sumelius) appears, wearing a fat suit and rainbow dreadlocks. Fortunately, she speaks English. Oh does she speak! And sing and carry on. At one point she becomes miniaturized, a dwarfed figure dancing on a tabletop, with the aid of someone else manipulating her “legs.”

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