BWW Review: WHAMMY! at The Young Liars
The YoungLiars company is one the freshest, most imaginative-and thoughtful experimental troupes you're apt to find anywhere. They just opened Whammy! : The Seven Secrets to a Sane Self at the Centene Building in Grand Center. These performers are totally committed, they're impeccably disciplined and there is a palpable sense of utter trust that pervades this cast of six actors (and a banana).
The program informs us that this show is about:
Some Things that All People Should Know About the Nature and Function of the Self,
Its Place in the Economy of Life, its Proper Training and its Righteous Exercise
It was created by actress Maggie Conroy and director Chuck Harper, who drew text from various self-help and "New Thought" books as well as pinches from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and some dialog by Sarah McKenny, Jeff Skoblow and indie film-maker Spencer Greenwood. Conroy and Harper also designed (respectively) costumes and sound.
In a bare ballroom we find five metal folding chairs. The actors drift in one by one; they're totally in white-very like tennis togs. They proceed to explore various anxieties, insecurities, loneliness, depression, suicidal tendancies. They explore sexual attraction-and sexual timidity. They explore failure, indecision, guilt. There is a great deal of impeccably choreographed movement-sometimes fluid and graceful, sometimes madly chaotic-but always precise. Sometimes they even dance while lying on the floor.
These five white-clad sufferers groping through life are Maggie Conroy, Frankie Ferrara, Michael Cassidy Flynn, (Katy) Keating, and Gabe Taylor. Soon there arrives among them a grandiose authority who has all the answers. Jeff Skoblow, all in black, with frock-coat, cravat and a flowing white scarf, lectures them (and us) about all these psychological problems. His antique goggles give him an oddly alien air-a hint of Wizard of Oz. He spouts strange advice-mostly bizarre, but with occasional real gems. For instance:
You can't make a decision because doing so would preclude all the other possible futures? You must make a "Sophie's choice": consciously kill all those other futures; then you're free.
From time to time loops of heavy rope are used. Two by two they step into these loops and squeeze together as they struggle to bring the rope up over their heads. What does this say of societal bonding? Of sex? Perhaps something. There is a possibly meaningful tug-of-war.
From time to time a pair will stand face to face and ask each other, "Do you like to be kissed up here? . . . or down there?" They never quite agree.
There are sometimes musical passages: carnival music, "The Girl From Ipanema" with flute and harp, St. Saëns' The Swan played on a shimmering theramin.
In the end a banana walks on stage. (The program doesn't say who plays this role; I guess it's just a banana.) Eventually-and suddenly-a gun appears and the Banana is shot dead. (Thank you, thank you YoungLiars for not including a spoiler "gunshot warning" in the program! [Oops! Have I just spoiled it?])
An actress approaches the Banana, lies down on it, and proceeds to have rather vigorous sex with it. The others, one by one, join the pile until all are there in a quivering heap of spasmodic copulatory thrusting.
The remarkably impressive "Movement Activities" are under the direction of Mikey Thomas.
So it's a strange evening. Weird, but not self-indulgent or meaningless. It'll make you think.
It's the YoungLiars' Whammy! It plays at the Centene through October 5.