Screw Tooth's Some Kind of Fun isn't much fun
Multimedia artist Adam Stone has collaborated on four of Buntport's most interesting shows, making music for three and contributing a soundscape and his own haunting presence to Wake, the company's take on Shakespeare's The Tempest. So a fair amount of excitement greeted the recent announcement that he had created a company of his own called Screw Tooth, which would produce four shows annually in the Buntport performing space. A lot of work and thought has gone into the first of these, Some Kind of Fun, which weaves together words, images, the work of seventeen actors, and music ranging from rock to Bruch.
You approach the playing space filled with curiosity and knowing every detail surely counts. Why is there a row of red candle holders just outside, and do these have anything to do with the row of dummy heads in front of a mirror on a platform in one corner of the playing area? You note that there are a few other mirrors around as well, so that when a movement catches your eye, it takes a moment to figure out whether it's made by a live performer or the performer's reflection. The set also includes a table bearing several varieties of apple; oil drums labeled "50 gallons cinnamon-spiced beet puree"; a large screen on which images appear, sometimes lingering, sometimes flashing by too fast to catch; a wall filled with photos of cars and another that boasts framed pictures of the sky; a long table with mismatched chairs; patches of artificial grass, at least one of which appears strewn with dead leaves. You glimpse people in strange costumes: a half-naked man with a black topknot and silver shorts, a gold girl-statue standing near an actual gold doll. There's almost continuous — and carefully chosen — sound, so that an actor talking about violent sex, for example, may be accompanied by the lilting sounds of Chopin. The audience is seated in the middle of the action on either small white stools or two-person black benches, a formation that clearly implies you're inside someone's mind. So far, so intriguing.
At the start, a man tells a pretty, long-haired young girl that he's a writer who wants to provide a "good and generous world" for his characters, but he's worried he might "give birth to something half human."
The artist making art out of his own act of creation is a familiar device but also a fruitful one, and the concept of fictional characters getting away from their maker is fertile, too. But what the hell are these characters doing? Why is a woman circling the space in a bathrobe? And is it deliberate or an accident that at one point she has a tissue stuck to her shoe, and at another the tissue is gone, but her laces are undone? What is the meaning of the wig-covered mound of a woman crawling slowly backward down some stairs? And why do these events have to happen so many times over?
Often the images on the big screen are more interesting than the action on the stage: a caged wolf, a buck traveling through snow, swallows on a wire, wildfire. When you see a fluffed-out parakeet mounting another, you think maybe there's some wit or absurdity on the way. Surely when a woman shrieks, "There are so many fucking kinds of apple," it's meant to be funny. And it's definitely funny when another says she wants "breasts so big my neighbors want to move." But for the most part the show is deadly serious, and the space rings with anguished declamation.
You catch hints of significance, none of them fitting together and none quite powerful or original enough to reverberate on their own. It doesn't help that the script, written by Stone and Buntport mainstay Erin Rollman, is for the most part flat and pretentious, with lots of references to birds, sky, bones ("I have bones, and someday they'll be with your bones") that don't really add up to anything. When, toward the end, the half-naked man — who had earlier writhed spectacularly as other actors read an account of a gruesome murder in which the victim was flayed — ended up beside an oil drum with his face a mask of clotted red, all I could think was "cinnamon-spiced beet puree." Which was by far the funniest and most interesting juxtaposition of the evening.
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