Reviewed by Aaron Riccio
God bless America, home of non-sequiturs and overzealous greed, and also, as we're reminded in Brian Parks' Americana Absurdum, rabid pursuits and hyperactive life. Parks' piece dials way past eleven, running on the fumes of an ever-elusive America. Split into two identically styled one-acts titled Vomit & Roses and Wolverine Dream, the evening is an explosive satire of America, as fast, furious, and inane as our culture.
Shone with a light from above, Paul Urcioli's direction uses clip lights to focus all the attention on whatever portion of the pitch-dark stage is currently under scrutiny. Of course, those vague, ominous shapes in the background, those performers holding down the lights, they're as much of the show as anything. It's all an effect, including the 100-meter-dash speed of the lines, meant to disorient and distract you, to suck you into a world of overwhelming superfluities, one that, as the show continues, looks more and more like a certain land that we love.
Sitting there, one becomes a half-baked theater potato. Verbal rapture, sure, but also mindless intellectual entertainment (oxymoron or not) that shifts between scenes so fast that only TV commercials draw comparisons, those zippy little spots that pause long enough to occasionally be funny. What distinguishes Parks from a commercial is that he isn't selling anything, he's lampooning it, and moreover, he isn't occasionally funny: he is consistently hilarious. (One wishes he were more sporadic; then we wouldn't feel so bad about missing a line here or there.)
When talking about Marquez, Ibsen, Dickinson, &c.--sometimes in the same breath--it's almost inevitable that at some point, mania takes over. That's the beautiful, irrepressible point. Parks jumps from issue to issue within his overarching "plots" not because he has ADD, but because the theme he's representing, America, has ADD. These satires have points--even beginnings, middles, and ends--but the deluge of scenic interjections and oral non-sequiturs make those inconsequential. Parks is shaping a mood, a mood that happens to be attached to a product, a product that happens, in this case, to be a fantastic play.
Excellently performed, every superlative phrase fits this counter-countercultural canon: nothing is ever simply "cracked" when it can be "cracked like a toddler's vertebrae." More is better, and examples (ala Family Guy) are everywhere: "Mummy could be sad about anything. Remember her suicide note?" If you're wondering just how over-the-top and speedy Americana Absurdum is, look no further than Greg Kotis (Pig Farm) . . . squared. One of the most absurdly entertaining pieces of the Fringe Festival, this returning favorite is still at the top of its game, and is a must-see staple for anybody, be they hip or hip-replaced, cool or cooling, smart or just into art.
The Lucille Lortel Theater (121 Christopher Street)
Thurs. AUGUST 24 @ 11, Fri. AUG 25 @ 6:30, Sat. AUG 26 @ 12
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.