Saturday, June 12, 2010

GSW9: Festival Report IV

Our first post-crisis report from Tess Elliott, and a smashing one at that...!

Thursday, June 10th

Haus of Marsian Theater
"Growing up Linda"

The program notes say that it is about the troubled life of an ice cream heiress, and the truth about a lot of heiresses seems to be pretty strange; there are certainly some stories you think someone must have made up, but were true. The main character onstage is decked out in a white suit badly stuffed with padding, with a very oddly cut platinum blonde wig and accessories right out of the film noir genre. On the one hand, you wonder if this is the heiress, or is she merely the narrator? Most people were astonished that through the entire performance this actor, whose lips are covered with ice cream sprinkles, managed to narrate the entire performance without licking her/his lips (the voice sounded very masculine). There were two pop-up book stages, full of drawings (the artist in me loves seeing drawings as stagecraft because in toy theater you CAN) and an ice cream store attendant who moved around a tiny camera to show closeups of the drawings. It was a dark and troubling story dressed in white ice-cream-cone color with sprinkles on top.

Dan Hurlin and Dan Froot
Who's Hungry—West Hollywood

This was a triptych of three performances, each ending with a picture of a person, so that you can assume the story is about the real person. Story One is about a man who was very successful in design, but became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and then became HIV positive. It is actually a hopeful story about a man who crashes and burns, but manages to get drug free again. It is a story with hope and resourcefulness, which sets the tone for the three plays. Story two is about a woman who has nothing but her treasured little dog, and loses it. She is portrayed in a very imaginative way with ribbon, binoculars, a small leash, and tiny flip flops and through the efforts of one, two and sometimes three people becomes a living, moving person. I was very amused at how well this company works together, so that it takes a wee village of puppeteers to make such an entertaining character. This was without an old fashioned proscenium stage, but was just as effective as an animation made out of scribbles which works beautifully. The woman finds her dog again, even though someone has spent a lot of money taking care of it while the owner was trying to find it with fliers. Again, there is a message of hope and determination. The third story is about a man who recycles in his neighborhood and builds it into a kind of business that makes him a living. He doesn't want to be a mogul, likes things simple, and really just wants to enjoy life rather than be owned by a tax-paying, receipt-filing, by-the-book business job. It's a slice of life that tells you some of the problems they face, and how we are none of us all that different.

Concrete Temple Theatre
"Hudson to China"

It took me awhile to remember my history, that Hudson believed he could find a route to the Orient in the north of America. The Hudson River did get him far inland, and near the Great Lakes, but a route to the East was not to be. So they start with a song commemorating Henry Hudson, then fly ahead in time to Nixon's work in negotiating a relationship with China, which was the beginning of the Chinese taking over many areas of what was once American manufacturing. You see a perspective from an American and an immigrant's point of view. The large stage is used in an interesting way: it is a long shape rather like a pagoda, with scenery at top, with life size people popping up or large puppets, and openings on the lower front where people pop out. It was a more complex story that was a little harder to follow than the simpler narratives, but the accordion accompaniment and stagecraft still made it fun to watch.