Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rude Mechs

Last night I went to see the TCG National Conference sponsored Sold-Out opening-night of “The Method Gun” performed by The Red Mechs from Austin, TX at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City as part of RedCat’s Under the Radar L.A. Festival. And while that’s a mind-boggling number of associations making one little show happen. It boils down to this. It was awesome. You should go see one of the 7 performances in LA ASAP (Click here for 1/2 price tickets.) But here’s the thing, when I tried to describe it to my girlfriend when I got home, she got this glazed look on her face, interrupted me and said she needed to change into more comfortable clothes before she could listen to me continue rattling on so enthusiastically about the show. Earlier in the day, I’d bitched for a full hour over lunch about personal and professional issues and though I fear I’d bored and alienated my lunch friend, he later wrote me JUST to say how much he’d enjoyed all my stories. And that I was an amazing story-teller. Yet, when I attempted to engage my lover in my high of having just eaten a sumptuous feast of performance, I failed completely. Why?
I wasn’t sure I’d like the show. I’d entered the theatre hopeful, but trepidatious which is more than I can usually say. I’m friends with someone who’s had a few of her plays performed by the Rude Mechs and while I love her work, it can sometimes be obtuse. And perhaps some might have found The Method Gun hard to get into, but what I found is that they exchanged the hard-edged experimentalism 1970s theatre for the playful almost Scooby-doo scrappiness of my generation’s leanings. It wasn’t a silly Brady Bunch Live kinda of thing though. It was no less intelligent and layered and deconstructed as Richard Foreman or Robert Wilson, but with a totally different attitude.
I tweeted: “The Wooster Group is to the Rude Mechs as Robert Altman is to Wes Anderson” It’s not quite right, but I was trying to find some new way to convey what I’d just seen with a cinematic analogy since people seem generally better versed in that medium. What I was trying to get at was first that though they’re all out of the mainstream, there’s a generational divide. Altman and the Wooster Group love playing with multiple threads, throwing so much at the audience it’s impossible to absorb it all the first time. But in truth, while I appreciate aspects of both, I’ve been deeply confused watching Nashville and unmoved watching North Atlantic. But both are filled with a certain detached pretension that leaves me at a distance. And while Wes Anderson can be too precious for my taste, like Altman, he also loves large casts with colorful characters. But Anderson just seems to have a much lighter touch that suits my temperament. Same thing with Rude Mechs. “The Method Gun” had so many moving parts (literally at the end in an ensemble tour de force dance section) that were disjointed in so many ways (akin to a Wooster Group production), but it was done with such ease and playfulness instead of the almost practiced intellectual feel of The Wooster Group.
So what was the damn show? The Rude Mechs performed as themselves a fake docu-drama about a terrible (fictional) 1970s acting troupe whose director decided to create a production of Streetcar Named Desire without any of the leading characters. No Stanley, Blanch, Stella or Mitch. Just the supporting characters. Then the director disappeared - left the country. And the ensemble continued rehearsing for another 6 years, opens the show finally and breaks up after that first performance.
Oh, and there’s a tiger. A brilliant, hysterical (Latino?) tiger who makes three entrances. But he was voiced by one of the other actors – visible to the audience which was so much fun and very Woostery.
See, I’m failing again to convey not only what the piece was, but the joy and inspiration it brought me.
How much so? It made me want to make theatre again. And that’s saying a lot.
And there you are just wanting to change into more comfortable clothes.
So why is great theatre like that so damn hard to convey? What art have you seen that when you try to share your enthusiasm for it, your description falls utterly flat, leaving your audience baffled and unmoved?

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