Sunday, August 02, 2015

2015 Fringe Review - Everything You've Done That Hurt Me - 5 stars

Tweet review - Everything You've Done That Hurt Me - hilarious, strangely heartfelt (no, they're not assholes) - 5 stars

The show description encapsulates the concept of this Minnesota Fringe Festival production best: Did you write a spiteful 20 page break-up letter? Did you subsequently lose that notebook in front of my home? Your relationship is now on display with a performance by Jonathan Manchester, music by Brian Ring.

“All of this still would have been fine if I hadn’t gone to jail.”

Due to the abbreviated nature of the source material, there’s enough time for a brief laid-back Q&A session after the performance has concluded.  Inevitably, the subject arises of whether it’s right or wrong to take someone’s personal document of heartbreak and offer it up for public consumption.

“Plenty of people think I’m an asshole,” answered Manchester. “NPR called me voyeuristic.”  Someone in the audience turned the question on Ring, sitting there with his guitar - “Also an asshole,” he volunteered.

“There was not a statatoo of limitations on the wrongs you did to me.”

I don’t think they’re assholes, probably for the same reason they don’t, and the reason they could do the show in the first place.  Sure, the initial impulse, given the fact that the content of the 20-page breakup manifesto is mind-boggling, seems irresistible. 

“You know in your heart what’s true, and you have to lice with that.”

Add to that the fact that the heartbroken author is not a writer - he has no clear grasp of grammar, sentence structure, logic, spelling, or vocabulary - and yet still valiantly holds forth on his subject matter for far longer than almost anyone these days would have the time or patience to write, longhand, in a ruled notebook.  Yes, by holding fast to the rampant misspellings and malapropisms as part of the performance, it makes the guy’s narrative regularly hilarious. 

“Every time you pushed me away, I felt like such an inuit.”

But it very quickly becomes clear, both in Manchester’s performance of the text and Ring’s reinterpretation of key phrases in his forlorn acoustic guitar stylings, that they are, in their own weird way, honoring the guy’s emotional state.  They’re not standing apart from the text and being ironic or passing judgment on the guy.  They feel his pain.  And they help us feel his pain.  You almost feel sorry for the guy. 

“I’ve digressed from my bullet points a great deal.”

Because he’s not trying to talk himself into going back to this woman, or making a case for her to take him back.  He’s not deluding himself.  He’s enumerating all the many reasons he can’t and shouldn’t go back.  He’s setting himself free and putting it behind him.  (Strangely for a show like this, directed with a lot of anger at a woman, it also isn’t setting off any of my misogyny triggers, which seems like it should but almost impossible, but there you are.)

“You’ve never once been sad to see me leave.”

Maybe that’s why no one’s been able to find the anonymous author - and there have been searches.  There’s even a very specific event in the text that makes it clear it could only be a fairly narrow cross-section of the garage band population of Duluth, MN.  Maybe the guy hasn’t come forward because he’s truly put the whole unfortunate relationship behind him.  One hopes so.  Sure, if he saw the show, he might be embarrassed by the litany of injuries done to the English language.  But I don’t think you could ask for a better pair of onstage surrogates than Manchester and Ring to make your case to the theatergoing public.

“Your conscience extends just as far as what people know, and what they can prove.”

Everything You’ve Done That Hurt Me is an odd little gem, sprung upon the artists by accident or providence, and they don’t just run with it, they elevate it.  It’s made an instant fan out of me.  I look forward to seeing what they do next, together or individually, and hope they bring it down from Duluth to the Twin Cities again soon.

5 stars, Very Highly Recommended

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