letters from the earth or somewhere
I was supposed to go to the show. Goodness knows I had ample opportunity, but I never made it. I felt pretty bad about it, but what can you do. Then I got this in my email inbox this morning, a forwarded forward of a mass email from one Ian Belton of a review by Ivan Bellman of Collapsible Giraffe’s Letters from the Earth. Ian/Ivan I enjoyed your anecdote and thought I’d publish it. If you don’t want it up here, email me and i’ll take it down.
So Mrs. Lincoln, all things considered, how was the show?
(Ivan Bellmans review of LETTERS FROM EARTH)
I would like to say my recent attendance of LETTERS FROM EARTH performed by the Collapsible Giraffe at their space The Collapsible Hole in recently gentrified southern Williamsburg was an objective cultural affair. Alas, as I regaled patrons of a nearby public house prior to closing night this past Saturday, I had, several years prior, participated in a bar room brawl with members of the CG as well as their sister company Radio Hole. It was a tawdry affair complicated by the incestuous nature that is the theater as well as timeless chemicals that are used to anesthetize the equally eternal pain of partaking in a temporal medium . .
After complaining to Amy Huggybear Huggans, co-founder of the C.G., about my teeth hurting when I sneezed (the equivalent of the lights turning on every time I flushed the toilet) in the early millennium during my first altercation with this particular demimonde of the avant-garde, I repaired my relationship with the brothers Finlay, the rest of the core of the C.G., in a gay bar in London. Jim Finlay is a longtime set design and master TD of the Wooster Group who were on tour with their adaptation of Racines Phaedra. Jim and Iver, the other brother, resolved our differences over after-hours clubs and our mutual disregard for taste, hygiene and personal safety.
So I thought I was cool. I ran into Jim on the 1/9 train to Union Square. I inquired unto his baby with Amy. He inquired why I was sending out emails telling people I was dying. I informed him not to worry I had at least another two or three years before I was restricted to a wheelchair and he gave me a card for his show which was closing.
I tied a few on before the performance at the nearby establishment, feeling guilty as I know there is ample canned beer provided at any Collapsible Hole performance, back since the days of Eric Dyers Repo Man riff, BENDER where he and the other performers would whip Budweiser Tallboys into the audience . . . .
I stood on-line in front of Janet Clancy, rigger and fly-technician extraordinaire, and she explained to me what a five-night town was. Huggybear took my fifteen dollars and Janet and I took our seats. I grabbed two cold Budweisers form the tub and took my seat in front of the photographer and next to a fat elderly gentleman who turned out to be the father of the Finlay brothers. I was impressed that the audience had escalated to blonde nubile college graduates from that of the degenerate avant-rejects I used to roll with.
The performance began in a typically unceremoniously experimental fashion. Iver then plugged a ringing phone into an old-school modem jack and he began to receive gossipy teletyped theatre jokes that where simultaneously projected above his head on a small rectangular screen. The typed info included jaunts about the Wooster Group and jokes about audience members, this writer included. I felt comforted and safe at being teased in that the last time I was at a show here I walked away bleeding out of my eyes.
The set consisted of an impressive array of technical debris and gadgetry (This is one of the truly impressive qualities of this group of theater thugs . . . they have been tracking video and sound recording technology since its inception. They are the liaison between the digital world we live in and the lost analogue world we come from) as well as some nice Rosco two-way mirror and several multi-channel channel mixing boards.
An unrecognizable Tara Webb, video and sound designer of high excellence, was in a blonde wig perched on the couch with Jim. The scenes devolved into religious rhetoric as Jim, dowsed in baking flour and performing a drum solo on hand-held microphone, played G-d and televangelist . . . Iver stopped the show and demanded that one person leave. He could not perform as long as the person was in the audience . . . The photographers girlfriend took beers from the bin milliseconds before Iver order its removal until the unwanted audience member was expelled. I couldnt help feeling like I was the one who should leave while at the same time I heckled the photographers hoochie for another beer . . . our conversation disturbed Iver and the performance proceeded. (I was convinced that the one person who should have left was myself. But then Iver put a beer next to my foot in a moment when he wasnt performing. This was touching.)
Tara revealed herself soon after as Eve to veteran downtown performer Brian Bickerstaffs Adam. Tara was encased in a sleeping bag as Brian whos arms were gaff-tapped to his torso and a hand-held Microphone between his breasts a la an early nineties Madonna. They would careen into one another in cartooney Marx Brothers fashion. Then Brian would hurl himself against a car seat couch that was now situated against the stage left wall . The photographers girlfriend was very impressed with this as was I. My mode of appreciation was to throw empty beer cans at Brian. This didnt seem out of place and I didnt get more than a raised eyebrow. Tara then emerged from her sleeping bag cocoon as a an armless mentally handicapped character in an afro wig . . . a butterfly in reverse straight out of the Garden of Eden.
As the performance continued, a wire-box spring mattress was brought out with some sort of massage device installed underneath it. This became a sort truth-inducing machine, or a device by which the characters were interrogated. Their corresponding epiphanies came in the form of monologues as the machine went faster and faster . . . I quite liked this and, having just finished a beer I decided to gently lob the empty container at the now horizontal Tara. One problem . . .
I have terrible aim and it was worsened by the fact that I was five sheets to the wind . . . on the clipper ship to Boozeville. The can hit the microphone inches away from her head. It hit her with such precision that it must have seemed intentional. Also there was some backwash in the bottom of the beer, which made a dramatic splash on impact. This gave the impression that the beer was full which is much heavier than an empty can. I was now, officially, the biggest asshole in the room. Janet confirmed this by saying to me, Now that wasnt a cool thing to do.
The guy running the massage torture bed left his station and demanded from the audience who threw the beer. The photographer pushed me with his foot and pointed me out to the angry performer. He then informed me that I could fight him or leave. I was complacent and apologetic. He told me that if I didnt apologize to Tara after the show I would have to deal with him. Then left me sitting and returned to his position beneath the bed.
Everything was a blur of emotion and fear after that. Tara packed a suitcase and left the show telling the other cast members to go fuck themselves. The bed went away and the fluorescent illuminated speakers became a pulpit for Jim and a container for Brian. It panned backwards as Jim mumbled something about this being the end and how there will be no more after this. I found this strangely moving. The performer who wanted to kick my ass gave a sullen, quasi-religious closing speech, which was similar to how the play began . . .
The play had ended and as I got up to use the bathroom the photographer ejected me from the theater. He told me that I should leave immediately less I have to deal with Jim and Iver. Father Finlay confirmed this and told me that they would stomp me into a puddle of mud. I was too drunk to fight a theater company. Normally I am much more defiant but I was so clearly in the wrong I had to just suck it up and leave. Feeling regretful and just plain bad I left the Collapsible Hole post-haste.
As I wobbled and careered down the street, I sent text messages via my cell phone to the cast and crew apologizing for my behavior. I received several voicemail messages back . . . one was a torrent of beer soaked slurs, some racial (This reminded me of when my cousin Mana urinated in Ivers shoes in retaliation for kicking my ass. They exchanged very heated racial barbs which I thought was funny because Im half-Irish and half-Iranian . . . all terrorist if you were wondering) . . . another was from Jim who informed me that he was going to remove my liver, cook it and feed it to his daughter. (I would not advise this unless he wants her to grow up to be a self-destructive alcoholic experimental theater idiot who cant hold a solid relationship or job.) Another message was from Tara asking why I threw beer at her. (If this review gets to her, please let me buy you dinner, or a movie or send you to medical school . . . so sorry) But the message that most struck me was from Huggybear who asked if I had a death wish . . .
The answer is . . . Yes . . . Im trying to kill myself . . . and all for fifteen bucks!