On Friday night, I caught an entertaining, thought-provoking and extraordinarily heady bit of theater out at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden. The play, directed by award-winning Denver actor and skilled chef John Arp, is called The Visitor. Written in 1993 by French playwright Eric Emmanuel-Schmitt, the piece finds God on Sigmund Freud's couch as the Nazis lay siege to Austria. It's a bizarre and surprisingly funny bit of philosophy that tests the limits of both faith and reason.
Upon leaving the theater, my radiant date and I high-tailed it back to Denver to catch the Nirvana tribute show. Helmed by Dualistics, the all-star affair commemorated the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman, grunge posterboy and fin-de-siècle martyr, Kurt Cobain. This might sound like a far cry from contemporary French theater, but as it happened, Dualistics carried on challenging my powers of reason and faith. I'll leave it to others to review the show, but I can't avoid commenting on the philosophical victories of the night.
No band in town is better suited to play In Utero in its entirety than Dualistics. After all, the proggy indie rock band makes no secret of its love for the music that filled 120 Minutes on MTV in the early '90s. But it's a bold move for an act that's establishing itself to play a faithful tribute show. Throwing a Nirvana party is bound to bring in a big crowd (and it certainly did), but the risk exists that all the neophytes will simply tag you as a talented cover band and never embrace your original work.
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Dualistics, however, managed to execute and imitate with nearly flawless verisimilitude -- occasionally tricking me into believing that I was hearing Nirvana's original album -- while also asserting their instrumental prowess, unrestrained passion and unique musical identity. The outfit simultaneously embodied the "tribute concert" aesthetic and transcended it. As I watched Charley Hine strain his voice through the challenges of "Milk It," part of me thought I felt the spirit of Cobain in the room, while another part marveled at Hine's commitment and stamina. My music critic's brain kept whispering, "They're just playing covers," while my music fan's brain shouted, "Rape me! Rape me again!"
Finding an emerging 21st-century Denver rock band in the same room as Nirvana might not be as difficult to grasp as stumbling upon Sigmund Freud and God in the same Viennese apartment, but both left me thinking about the hazards of assumptions, the foibles of rational thought, and the existence of beings and powers beyond my ken. And every time art -- visual, theatrical, musical or otherwise -- makes me think, I'm grateful. I'm reminded of an observation I scribbled on a coffee cup recently for a friend in need of encouragement: Without "art," Earth would be "Eh."