September 11th, 2009 5:33 pm | by Caitlin Mccarthy News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TBA Diary: The Crumb Trail

Pan Pan Theatre performs The Crumb Trail, photo by Gordon Wilson

If you agree that the best way to simultaneously modernize and corrupt an age old fairy tale is to present a scene of online sex, you may like The Crumb Trail. If you think Hansel and Gretel could use a few more layers of incestuous overtone, you will like The Crumb Trail. If you've always wanted to see YouTube utilized in wondrous, disturbing ways on stage, you will really, really like The Crumb Trail.

The Irish group Pan Pan Theatre has graced the west coast with its premiere of The Crumb Trail at TBA, a sort of modern, experimental, mish-mashed riff on Hansel and Gretel. We have our family: Hansel (Bush Moukarzel), Gretel (Aoife Duffin), Arthur (Arthur Riordan) and Gina (Gina Moxley). It takes most of the play for any sort of plot to coalesce; they banter, they crack jokes, they flare up at each other, they spasmodically dance to YouTube videos. But though that all sounds like pure nonsense, watching it is anything but: you're kept on your toes, picking up any tidbit of a hint, following (I have to say it) the proverbial crumb trail. And, through it all, it's funny.

Disturbing, bizarre, unexpected—yes. But definitely hilarious. Gina and Gretel compare pantyhose; Gina's give off pheromones and Gretel's, she tells us, are composed of aloe so that she never needs to moisturize. Hansel, in the scene titled "Blackout," very somberly rattles off a list of press praise of the play ("If you see one play this year, The Crumb Trail demands to be the one") before segueing into Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy. They dance along to YouTube clips of the Numa Numa song, the Star Wars Kid, "Hey Ya" vis a vis Charlie Brown. It feels at once nonsensical and familiar.

And, just like the absurdly perverse children's folktale it's based on, its grotesque moments are part of the attraction. This is not all good fun; this is tense, freakish fun. It's even, here and there, a fight to the death. Our four, at their enter and exit, stop for a while to each hang from a hung pole; they hang, and they stare. It's a direct affront to the audience, which is why perhaps the laughter comes so strange and hesitant at times. As Gretel pronounces, trying to convince both herself and us, "I'm used to things not going in straight lines. I refuse to be devastated." So we can only laugh.

Pan Pan Theatre performs The Crumb Trail at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. 248-4335. 6:30 pm Friday-Saturday, Sept. 11-12. $20-$25.
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