BWW Review: Radicals In Miniature Fails to Launch The Revolution
Enter a dark room littered with numerous computer monitors, three desks, and tens of precisely arranged Starbucks cups. This artfully square rendering of a radio studio serves as the set for Radicals in Miniature, an oral history that excavates the lives of non-celebrities. Created by Ain Gordon and Talvin Wilks - Gordon is joined in performance by Josh Quillen - Radicals begins with its performers chanting the word "fan" over and over again while unleashing a litany of facts that would be obscure even if their subject matter weren't. The PR material for Radicals declares "THE DEAD WILL HAVE THEIR DUE". The only question I've had since watching this gab fest is, "Do they want that due?"
Gordon has been described as "the king of minimal". Alongside the equally subdued Quillen, he has unearthed the non-achievements of four people from their collective pasts in a style that mirrors an NPR podcast. Airing the exploits of people who bear no importance to the development of mankind in a manner that is neither compelling nor particularly funny is a bizarre way to spend one's evening, which is why I saw the show twice; I wanted to make sure that I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't. At both presentations that I attended, the night felt like an extended therapy session, except in this instance the audience paid to hear someone monotonously monologue minutiae about marginal matters. Sometimes images of the dead were projected onto the computer monitors. At other times, Quillen sang the out-of-service telephone number of his family's former accountant while accompanying himself on an oil drum. It might have been surreal had it been interesting.
There is the flaw for me: even the most mundane or arbitrary facts can be made intriguing; what matters is the delivery. True to the title of "minimal", the performances rarely passed that of a less than earnest student reciting his book report. A great deal of research went into this project - I know because Gordon and Quillen kept telling us so - and yet the results were decidedly less than revolutionary. My least favourite primary school instructor loved tiddlywinks and though I found that ridiculous, when he spoke of the game his fervour was such that I pondered giving it a try. I never did, but for a brief moment an abused tween forgot his self-loathing and thought about a world beyond his fears. During Radicals, all I could think about was the movie Magnolia and the fact that I needed to pay attention.
If two experienced men cannot convince me that they are more interested in a passion project than they are in hearing themselves speak, then how can I possibly be compelled to care? What are the dead due? That is a riddle I can never hope to unravel but I'll hazard this much: the dead are due more than Radicals managed to muster.
Radicals in Miniature originally ran at Baryshnikov Arts Center from May 16th - 24th, 2017.