Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 5

Day 2

(As you might imagine from the schedule, there wasn't a lot of down time between shows to actually stop and comment. And yesterday was spent returning to the day job, paying bills and then spending time with Mom. So...back at it)

Staggering Toward America
Rik Reppe

Mom says, "That was amazing."

I think, like most of the audience, we were truly stunned by how consistently Rik was able to move us from laughter to tears and back again. Perhaps the national wound that is September 11th will always be a sore spot which can't help but evoke a reaction in the right hands. But I don't think so. We might be more willing to be moved, but not just anyone can move us. Rik moved us. He is the best kind of storyteller. While he is present in these stories, he is never the point of them. The point is always to share the rogues gallery of misfits and unexpected heroes he met on his journey. Thanks to the portraits he paints of these people, the detail with which he recreates them for us, we truly come to know them and care for them, and in many cases, wish we were more like them. It reminds us, in this dark time, why we still love this country and why we shouldn't give up on trying to make it better. The United States needs the help of all its citizens in order to heal and grow again. Based on the cross section of citizens that people Rik's story, I think we have the raw material to make that happen. This show is the kind of powerful stuff that reminds me why the art of live theater is still relevant.

As an added tip of my hat, I have to say that Rik was doubly impressive given the circumstances of this final performance. He joked when he met my mom the other day that he normally doesn't get up before noon, much less perform. He woke up on the final day of the Fringe sick as a dog. When we met him outside the Bryant Lake Bowl and had a quick pre-show chat, he was fortifying himself with tea, bottled water, and mini powdered sugar donuts. He even warned the audience at the start that he might have to take an unscheduled break for about five minutes in the middle somewhere to replenish the tea supply (and that if he suddenly slipped into some kind of fevered hallucination, tore off his clothes and ran out of the theater screaming, "Ba-boo, ba-boo!" we should understand it wasn't a regular part of the performance).

However, with all that warning in place, he never faltered, and never took that break. Like his audience, he was consumed and propelled forward by the power of the story he was sharing.

Mom says this one is tied for first place in her mind of all the shows she ended up seeing (9). We'll get to the other first place contender in just a bit.

Rik often says he has all the subtlety of a brick when performing. I beg to differ, but if it's true, it's a brick we should all be hit with, repeatedly, until we wake up and take our country back.

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