Fringe Day 9, Part 4 - August 14, 2004, 6:00pm
The Mayasphere Project
Bryant Lake Bowl
This one was worth the wait and the extra effort it took to finally get into a performance and see it.
This is theatre boiled down to its compenent parts, an actor and an audience, and very little else - some flame, a lamp, a few candles, some hanging fabric through which light and shadow can play, a harp, and that's it.
One actor, a whole panoply of roles ranging across quite a few stories from ancient mythology compiled by Ovid. Todd Conner is quite literally the whole show here. His voice and body contort to deliver all manner of characters. He's a mesmerizing storyteller who makes you forget that there's only one of him up there.
The prologue - basically the history of all mankind - and the epilogue - essentially trying to tell us why it was important to see what we had just seen - seemed extraneous to me. I know we need to set the stage for the spectacle to come, but having seen Todd do so very much with so very little, I get the distinct feeling he doesn't need that long a prologue as a warm-up act - at least for the audience's sake. We're with him from the moment he brings light onto the dark stage. As far as I was concerned, he could have just launched right into a tale and I would have been happy and quite able to catch up with him. Who knows, it might not have even needed a 90-minute slot if you lopped off the ends?
There's also always the danger with any one person show - less so with singers going solo, but even there it's a problem - that this single voice could inadvertantly lull a person to sleep. A person gets used to hearing the same voice, particularly a voice like Todd's, which is very soothing, and that person might just comfortably start to drift off in spite of themselves. Getting right to the story, while not eliminating the problem, might have the advantage of keeping the listener on their toes.
I felt bad he didn't have bigger audiences but I sensed this might have been the function of several things working against him. 90-minute slots, though I love them, do play havoc with some people's tight Fringe schedules. The "absolutely no late comers" policy on this one must have turned away more than just a traffic-delayed me on Monday. This was also the only show during which no food was allowed to be served.
Now, I understand an artist wanting to preserve the integrity of their work, I really do. I also understand that performing a one person show, where you are your own best friend and you have no one to back you up and save you, should something go wrong, make concentration paramount. Doing such a show with a bowling alley and a bar/restaurant just on the other side of the wall, and all that noise drifting each time the server's window is opened to let in food, can't be easy to deal with. Not to mention the silverware clinking on plates and the ice cubes clinking in glasses.
But, honestly, it's the Fringe. The audience makes allowances. They can tune out just about anything to concentrate on the art at hand. The audiences of the Fringe, and the Bryant Lake Bowl in particular, are incredibly adept at this. Part of the attraction of Bryant Lake Bowl is that it's one of the few venues in town where you can eat, drink, and have your theatre served to you at the same time. Far from being dinner theatre, it's a celebration, it's a party. It's part of the convivial atmosphere and contract between audience and performer there. And as Bertolt Brecht once said, "A theatre with no beer is just a museum."
(Ironically, a museum - the Getty - is where many of the stories in this Metamorphoses first took shape)
Just like in auditions or with grant applications or playwriting competitions, at the Fringe, potential audience members have too many choices before them. If they can find an excuse to check one off the list, they'll probably do it.
Side note to this side note - Someone I know was leaning toward attending a certain other Fringe show (not this one), when they heard through the grapevine reports that the actor involved in that show threw the hissy fit that was this year's winner of the Difficult Actor contest. Though the show was getting great word of mouth, that little bit of word of mouth turned that potential audience member off. So very many of the Fringe performers are so accomodating and pleasant, why would one go out of their way to patronize the show of a performer who's not? Kharma, people. Look it up.
Getting back to Todd and Metamorphoses, however, he might have done himself a favor if he bent a little more to the venue, rather than expecting the venue and its audience to bend to him.
It's really a shame. Because the show, it was great. I wish more people had seen it.
(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)