Monday, August 03, 2020

Virtual Fringe 2020 Review - timz paranoid delusionz - Tim Mooney - Speaking of Conspiracy Theories... - 4 stars

Tweet review: #NightlyFringe outing #5 for virtual #mnfringe 2020: timz paranoid delusionz, from @TimMooneyRep; it was Tim, it was paranoid, and we can only hope they were delusions; he's too good at worming into the doubts we'd like to keep in the back of our minds - 4 stars

(Previous overview) (for the curious)

Two of the three shorts which are timz paranoid delusionz previously made the Minnesota Fringe rounds as part of the Fringe Orphans anthology series: Electric Eye, and The Dog That Doesn't BarkElectric Eye traces the path from the seemingly benign surveillance involved in self-flushing toilets and urinals in public restrooms to the larger surveillance and drone state that threatens to engulf all of society; The Dog That Doesn't Bark turns over the rock to uncover the seedy underbelly of political influence born from the keeping (and releasing) of secrets to consolidate power.  Rounding off the half hour is a selection from a new piece, still in progress, called The Company, which imagines a company so large it covers both supply and demand and thus brings all of daily life under its sway, the idea of independent government just becoming a pleasant fantasy people use to reassure themselves.

"Drones have mission creep.  Creeps have mission drones."

Tim Mooney's smooth delivery, whether as a frazzled person going down the wrong rabbit hole, or an all-knowing influence peddler who knows more than you're comfortable with, guides the listener down complicated paths with ease, making these conspiracies all too possible and insidious.

Weird thought crossed my mind thinking about this show: There's been discussion that some people who become devotees of a particular religion do so because they have a strong desire or need for structure that the rest of their life doesn't provide for them.  Belief in some kind of deity or higher power means that there's a plan, that there are rules to follow, that there's something overseeing the universe, that it's not just chaos, that all of this must be leading to something.  And I suppose for people for whom religion doesn't work, a belief in grand, shadowy conspiracies is also a way of imposing order, however malevolent, on an otherwise chaotic world.  It's another way of providing an understandable structure to an otherwise random universe.

"That dark night of the soul - I was there, beside you, holding your hand."

Another strange thing that struck me as I was listening, though, particularly during The Dog That Doesn't Bark, when the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. was invoked in a passing anecdote, is I think we're starting to look at conspiracy theories differently now.  Not as a strictly white storytelling trope, because that's only scratching the surface.  The really insidious and far-reaching conspiracy, and one that underpins all of American society, is the machinery of white supremacy.

And I started thinking, well, if there's anyone who can take that complexity, and start embodying it in narrative and character, it's probably Tim.  What if he turned over that rock?  What if he gave that a face, and a voice, and made it real, and understandable?  Not the kind of guy marching with a tiki torch to protect a Confederate statue, but the kind of guy with real power, who creates the systems to help keep himself in power, and get his fellow white citizens to back him up because they think it's in their interest, when all the while he's taking control of everything they think they own away from them, too.  Not the kind of guy that makes a scene, but the kind of guy that builds the stage.

"You can't teach a pig to sing.  It frustrates you, and annoys the pig."

This is, of course, not what he was doing with this show at all.  I should be responding the show he presented, not the one I wish he wrote.  But aren't these kind of conspiracies really a subset of the larger conspiracy?  They're built on an assumption of whiteness because they never really had to take anything else into account when we were telling stories like this before.  And we're starting to understand that it's more complicated that.  That seems like richer, more complex territory - and maybe the kind of stories we need.

Tim's got a stable of classics that he's been retooling for internet usage since his regular touring schedule has been derailed by the pandemic.  You can follow him at and over on Twitter @TimMooneyRep to keep on top of what's next online, until he can start traveling 
to theaters around the country again.

4 stars - Highly Recommended 
(that goes for all his stuff, so check him out via the links above)

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