In Greetings from Camp Katabasis, two campers are out in nature, annoying the hell out of each other, bickering, philosophizing, attempting to bond and mourning the death of a friend called Chuck.
Katabasis, according to counselor Amie (Friend?) — whose hysterically funny monologues frame the action and is probably just a larger-than-life memory the men carry with them — means some kind of descent: whether literal, into the depths of the self; or into Hades itself. We’re guessing Hades, since the men’s tent is beside a strip of river. We’d love to tell you what the river’s made of, but that would ruin the surprise; you’ll have to see for yourself.
The campers are Pete and Jim, aka Brian Colonna and Erik Edborg, a comedy team as zany, gifted and original as any of the historic greats: Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, the Goons or the Monty Python gang. Jim is a wonder-filled hippie with long hair, sandals and thick gray socks, who insists they’re on an important journey; Pete, gesticulating, excitable and easily bored, has come ridiculously overprepared, bringing a portable eyeball flusher, a Darth Vader Pez dispenser and a plastic doll called Annie to be used for CPR practice, among other things.
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Amie, played by Hannah Duggan, is a figure as monstrous and overwhelming as Nurse Ratched, Miss Hannigan or any nursery-story villainess. She’s fiercely bossy and at the same time utterly ridiculous, warning against every kind of danger, from carrion-ripping ravens to tipped-over canoes to poisonous insects. There’s no way that anyone will get out of Camp Katabasis alive, she warns, fixing the audience with her glittering eyes. You believe her because no one can portray larger-than-life and bordering on the supernatural as well as Duggan.
Buntport Theater Company has been exploring issues of myth and loss all season, and there are some deeper meanings running beneath that river, ideas about reality and illusion, speculation on the nature of the universe and our place in it. What, the campers, wonder periodically, lies on the river’s further shore? The CPR doll is called Annie for a slightly creepy reason, too: Rescue Annie is the name given to such mannequins around the world, and the first Rescue Annie’s face was modeled on the death mask of an unknown young woman found drowned in the Seine in the nineteenth century. This apparent suicide had a slight smile, her eyes seemed about to open, and her death mask was venerated as a symbol of mystery and beauty by artists and poets.
But there’s also talk in Camp Katabasis about such trivial topics as how to ball socks and whether “hokily” is an actual word. The best thing about this production, which lowers the curtain on a truncated but profoundly evocative season, is that you get to see the folks of Buntport at play, and marvel at just how brilliant and funny they are.
Greetings from Camp Katabasis, presented Thursdays through Sundays through June 4 (with an additional performance on Monday, May 30), at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, buntport.com.