Monday, April 30, 2007

Repeat After Me

Hand2Mouth Theatre
Posted by Frenchglen April 29; closes May 5

Industrial strength subversion. Hand2Mouth makes expert use of recycled cultural forms we think we know, only to keep yanking out rug. Shock and awe aerial assault on the red, white and blue reaches deafening, demented levels. Venue, format, open bar create experience unlike almost anything else in town. Excellent ensemble.


SMB said...

Did you mean "aural" assault? Although "aerial" could, I suppose, fit...

Anonymous said...

Between this show and liminal's show, which just closed, we actually can claim to have some new, adventurous, national caliber work going on in town. We should support these 2 companies. They are taking chances and offering unique experiences. Let's make certain they feel a part of our theater community; let's not lose them. Learn about them. Learn from them.

Anonymous said...

When they can start producing stunning work consistently, then I'll start singing from the rafters. Until then...

Anonymous said...

This feels like genuinely popular theatre. A crossover between sports, tv, film, performance. At last a show that can draw an audience with a median age below 55. That's no easy achievement.

Every single minute is exciting here. On paper, you wouldn't think this is a feel good show, but really it is. You come away energized and awake.

An open question: Is it too insular? How would this play outside the Portland bubble? For example, maybe take it to the VFW in Burns and try it out.

Can this show aspire to more than an inside joke? How would the performers do the show in front of an audience of moderate income Americans who had lost sons and daughters in the war? Remember, real people are dying.

Hilarity is fine, but at the end of the day, there is some risk that this is just titillation and fun for the better off who are never going to be faced with going to war.

The occupational hazard of being an American is that everything becomes a hilarious joke. But peel back that layer and look below for the real emotions.

Also ask yourself how would Iraqis take this piece. Would they think you are helping or hindering? Or ignoring? Is it a symptom of an engaged or apathetic culture?

How would your fellow citizens in the trenches respond? Would they get the critique, or would it come off more as class jokes about buck-toothed rednecks?

Aspire to more. You're very close. Keep the Napoleon Dynamite routine to warm people up, but then modulate and go in for the kill and present the real thing. Go for the real social critique, and present it to real people.

Spring time in Portland.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Anonymous 8:38. I found plenty of hilarity in the show to be sure, but just as many moments of true emotion and real engagement with music that many would dismiss as unsophisticated, conservative or just plain crappy. The piece uses the fine line between laughing and crying to great effect, catching me offguard and forcing me to reconsider my first reaction to the scene or song.

These moments of engagement and emotion were what opened up a diolgue within me about how I feel about American culture, how I participate in it, and what I share with people I normally wouldn't give any credit. This to me is successful theatre. I left the show full of its imagery, the powerful performances, the music, but most of all a dialogue about the material and the issues it raises.

I'd like to add also that I haven't seen such physically engaged performances in a long time. It was a refreshing change from the timid stuff that makes up most of the other theatre in Portland.

Ben Waterhouse said...

I can't say it enough: I freaking love this show, and expect even greater things from Hand2Mouth in the future. Asking them to "produce stunning work consistently" is a bit silly—does Elevator Repair Service always blow the audience away? How about Ontological?—but we can count on the fact that every show they create is the result of great labor and consideration.
If you haven't seen the show yet, check it out! Then see it again at TBA and watch evolution in action.

Follow Spot said...

Posted by Followspot May 4, 2007; closes May 5, 2007

Moments. Many brilliant moments. Though not all bits rang a bell with me, there was interesting resonance among cacophony as a whole. Once again, H2M’s man-behind-the-curtain operations enhance the presentation while highlighting the ensemble. What will happen when this comes back from the drawing boards at this year’s TBA Festival?

David said...

Many sequences created in me the queasy feeling self-recognition--of myself and the country I live in--but I often felt distanced, too, by imprecision in the choice of target, if not in the attack itself. I couldn't help feeling that only a certain segment of Jerry Springer America was being made to feel uncomfortable; a segment that lives mostly in the Rocky Mountain and desert states, is white, largely impoverished, and largely disenfranchised already. Perhaps this segment of culture seems to the theater makers here to be the raw material from which the Bush war machine is made. In part, I think they're probably right, but only in part. I would have felt less uneasy about this if I felt the story tellers here--the ensemble--had an insider's feel and understanding of that part of America, but I'd bet it does not.

This work engaged and intrigued me--made me eager to see it's next reincarnation--and I congratulate the ensemble for it's fresh work. Now, I would like to see deepen understanding of it's characters so that they are not strawmen or caricatures drawn out of (subtle?) bigotries.