BWW Reviews: A Festival of Pride in Sleeping Weazel's DOUBLES, DEMONS, AND DREAMERS
This week is Pride Week in Boston and what better way to support and celebrate than with a festival of plays and theatrical pieces that feature appropriate and relevant themes. Sleeping Weazel's Doubles, Demons, and Dreamers spans two weekends, each of which has its own lineup of a solo performance and a full length play that all tell touching, absurdist, revolutionary, and surrealist tales. This weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing a cabaret by gender bending artist Johnny Blazes and Ugmo and Eenie Go Down the Ruski Hole, a poetic and surrealist play written and directed by Kenneth Prestininzi, both of which will be closing this weekend.
The evening started with a performance by trans artist Johnny Blazes, a raunchy, sexual, lighthearted, and fun jack of all trades. They (Johnny prefers gender neutral pronouns) performed a handful of songs, including such standards as "Don't Tell Mama" and "Maybe This Time", spending a bit of time in between each number chatting with the audience and telling a bit about their struggle with identity. The piece was certainly fun and entertaining, though it seemed a bit hastily thrown together. When they hit a joke, they hit it hard, and the audience was uproarious, but most of the banter seemed like they were struggling with how to speak their thoughts and hadn't planned out what to say prior. The performance also ended on a sad note, with Johnny expressing their feelings of being an outsider and not having a place in this world, singing a final song, and leaving the room. While those feelings are beautiful and genuine, I felt there was more power in their positivity.
That all being said, I enjoyed the performance. Johnny flirted with the audience, delighting everyone with whom they interacted. Johnny's confidence and and enjoyment of what they were doing was infectious. And most importantly, their message was told. This was a great piece addressing the fact that there is a spectrum of sexualities, not simply the black and white of gay or straight. It was different and that's what's important.
After a short intermission, Ugmo and Eenie Go Down the Ruski Hole began, a new play that had roots in surrealism, absurdism, and poetry. The set was very specifically messy, covered in trash and crumpled up papers, with chalk board paint on the walls and floor, which was utilized throughout the production. The story very loosely followed a troubled performance artist whose rehearsing/existential crisis continuously woke up his ex-drag queen, soon to be Marine upstairs neighbor. It was a look into the mind of a poet, an exploration of how messed up your thoughts can really be, a warped love story. Most moments I had no idea what was going on or why anything was happening, but I loved that.
Most impressive, in my opinion, were the performances given. Leicester Landon played the tortured artist, constantly jumping between nervous mumblings and practiced performance. Not only did he speak massively poetic text for the entire hour and a half, but the role was hugely physical. In my favorite moment of the show, Landon turned on this beautiful classical music and gracefully danced across the stage, juxtaposing brilliantly with the disgusting apartment setting an harsh text. Alston Brown played the neighbor and gave the most devastatingly honest performance as someone looking for love in all the wrong places. It was almost as if Brown's character was presented in realism, while Landon's was presented in surrealism, and the clash of the two made for a heartbreaking and wild piece.
This piece was chaotic and weird, funny and sad. As I said before, much of the time I had no idea what was happening or why, but it was such a specific mess that I bought it. The mess was the point. This was a marathon piece, especially for Landon, and I was so impressed by the actors' devotion and understanding of their twisted characters. It is a shame that the production only played for a single weekend, because I would recommend everyone see it if they could.
In Ugmo and Eenie, one character stated, "Every man has his right to his own solo show", which I felt summed up the night well. Everyone deserves expression and understanding. Everyone should be granted the ability to say what they want to say and be who they want to be. This festival is a step in that direction.
Next weekend, Sleeping Weazel's festival Doubles, Demons, and Dreamers continues with Lava Fossil, a one woman play written and performed by Beth Nixon, and a piece called Talk To At Me by Adara Meyers. For more information, complete production teams, and tickets, visit their website www.sleepingweazel.com.