While in New York I saw “Play Dead,” which is pretty much a one-person show by the previously mentioned Todd Robbins. It doesn’t have a story to tell so much as a desire to talk about death, perform some magic, and try to scare you. The fear factor was played up quite a bit before the show, which made for a bit of a let down when in reality it wasn’t so scary.
Robbins is a very entertaining and compelling presence. Directed by Teller (of Penn and Teller), the show had its share of magic and illusions, which is great, though I’d seen them before or could guess how most were done. Several audience members were chosen to take part in the proceedings, and that’s fun as long as I’m not chosen! Occasionally all the lights went out and things happened in the theater that reminded me of children’s Halloween parties.
Although I felt a bit let down overall by this production, one of things that I did like is that Robbins takes a good, hard swipe at today’s fake mediums like John Edwards and James Van Praagh. Rank amateurs, he calls them, next to Mina “Margery” Crandon, who could produce ectoplasm from her her nose back in the early twentieth century:
I think I was just too familiar with the tricks designed to fool or frighten, so maybe I’m not an average audience member. Others may love it more than I did. There were certainly people in the theater who were screaming. I’m glad I went. It was fun the see the famous Cafe Wha? next door to the theater. Also walked by The Bitter End, equally famous for the great talents who have performed there.
Back in Seattle, I saw “8 Plays Over Easy” by the WARP group. In one of the short plays I witnessed the birth of a baby crocodile who was almost immediately eaten by its mother. In another I saw a man die and then wake up in chicken heaven. I saw a very cute and talented child actor playing a girl who marveled at how her grandmother’s old manual typewriter was totally wireless and had a built-in printer. Then there was some hot and talented drag queen lip synch/dance action.
Every play involved a rubber chicken. I think that’s required now, following the Chicken Drama Act of 2010, unanimously passed by the city council. It’s definitely been a boon for out-of-work rubber chicken actors. They have a powerful lobbying presence and should be a force to reckon with in the next local elections.
Stage-blood on the East Coast, chickens on the West Coast – is this a great country for theater or what?