“Are you here to see ‘the ellipsis?’” the woman working the box office asked. She didn’t hesitate, but you could hear the quotation marks. Like any intentionally unpronounceable play, Fuse Theatre Ensemble’s (…)
, receiving its world premiere as part of the Fertile Ground Festival
, is sure to raise flags. For the majority of theatergoers, the play’s lack of an alphanumeric title will raise a big red one. Brecht-worshipping intellectuals, on the other hand, will be waving two giant green flags like airplane marshallers, guiding the great winged (…)
into Terminal X, for arrivals of uncompromising experimental theater. Thankfully, both flag-wavers are dead wrong.
Directed by Rusty Tennant, (…)
, subtitled An Experiment in Repetition
, opens with one man and two women (Gerrin Mitchell, Christina Markowski and Kate Mura, respectively) seated together on a couch and lit only by the screens of their cell phones. They begin to spew out nonsensical lines, often overlapping, which disorient as much as they intrigue. “Is that...?” one asks, answered only with “Do you think this is what I meant by that?” It’s a little murky if these three are mentally ill or if their phones represent some subtextual communication to which the audience is not privy. Goofy, thumping music interrupts the contemplative mood of their quibbling, and a MacBook’s telltale quack betrays the music’s unfortunate Garageband origins.
When the lights come up, (…)
moves into more digestible, if equally convoluted, territory. The walls of this apartment are noted in chalk, along with areas designated “BEDROOM,” “FRIDGE” and “WINDOW.” The characters begin putting bare-bones conversations together. “What is that?” one woman asks. “What?” the other replies. “OK...” She wavers between question and answer. “OK,” the other confirms. Cryptic in language, certainly, but the two women have just awakened from the same bed, going from warm cuddling to cold stares. These are clearly romantic dramas. Later, after watching one woman yelp to the pulse of a vibrator, the male roommate is seduced to join her in bed, while unbeknownst to them the third listens on. All the conversations repeat the same 20 or so lines, with small textual variations and plenty of ever-changing emotion thrown in to keep it interesting.
At just 30 minutes, even the most stalwart classicist—or your Uncle Ernie—can put up with this mild dose of the avant-garde. (Moralistic Uncle Ernies beware: (…)
includes topless females.) The central coffee table boasts a copy of No Exit
, Jean-Paul Sartre’s play about three souls condemned to a hell of an ornately-furnished room that they cannot leave. That should keep the theater nerds busy until the next Beckett reinterpretation.
Music and esoteric opening sequence aside, (…)
has a groundedness seldom seen in such pretentiously-titled works. As stated dozens of times by the characters, “I’m kind of amazed.”SEE IT:
Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont St., 971-238-3873. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, Jan. 31-Feb. 3. $10-$12. fusepdx.com.