September 8th, 2012 | by REBECCA JACOBSON Arts & Books | Posted In: Theater

TBA Diaries: Miguel Gutierrez, Heavens What Have I Done

 Miguel Gutierrez Miguel Gutierrez - Photo: Ian Douglas

If you have plans to see Heavens What Have I Done tonight or tomorrow, Miguel Gutierrez probably wants you to stop reading this. Gutierrez is an advocate of audience members entering performances blindly. He dislikes programs, and he dislikes papers about the “meaning” of his work. Does Gutierrez want to read a graduate student’s analysis of his performance? No. Like everyone else, he says, he’d rather watch YouTube and pornography.

This kind of briskly rambling, irreverent argument characterizes much of Gutierrez’s hour-long performance. He opens the show dressed in clown make-up, inch-long fake eyelashes and street clothes. “Hi,” he says. “So my piece has already started.” He then invites the audience to join him onstage, where we sit, cross-legged and somewhat cramped, like a group of preschoolers awaiting storytime. (“Oh, theater,” I heard someone sigh.)

Much of the performance did feel like storytime. Gutierrez’s comic monologue, delivered at 120 miles per hour, covers impressive ground: he discusses Plato’s The Symposium (“a bunch of queens talking about their boyfriends”), racist French politics, how believing in dance is like believing in UFOs (“it changes your life and no one else understands”), his mind-control acupuncturist, back pain, ex-boyfriends. All the while Gutierrez tosses his belongings around the stage and changes into a rainbow-striped costume, white wig, and heeled Capezios. He winds up looking like a strung-out Marie Antoinette in a pride parade.

In a show that is part stand-up comedy, part confessional and part lecture, Gutierrez is likable, funny and more than a tad eccentric. He derides the self-consciousness and pompousness of performance art even as he participates in it, endearing the audience to him. With his unruly delivery and cluttered stage, he’s something of a brilliant but untidy professor, crossed with a messy but lovable roommate.

And then he changes. For the last portion of the show, Gutierrez alters the pace. He recites a series of French phrases before dancing and stomping wildly across the stage, tripping over the detritus of the set and cutting through the audience. His persona morphs from mildly frantic (though still relatable) to absolutely frenzied, nearly possessed. It’s discordant and disorienting, and deliberately so.

Heavens What Have I Done seesaws between sarcasm and sincerity. Gutierrez makes his audience comfortable and then disrupts it all. And no matter how manic he appears, it’s clear who is in control.

SEE IT: Washington High School, Southeast Stark St., Between SE 12th and 14th Ave. Sept 8-9, 6:30 pm. $15-$20. All ages. Tickets and info at pica.org/TBA.

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