Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Not that Kirk Wood Bromley makes any effort to hide it, but he's a huge fan of John Ashbery. So it's no surprise that his latest play, Me, is a highly literate, linguistically comic, and utterly refracted, interrupted, and regurgitated work of theater. It's unfortunate that for all the self-deprecation at the hands of his twelve "degenerate" Me's (actors, what else is new?), so little of Mr. Bromley is visible. But who has time to think when we hit the ground running (more appropriately, punning), entering a world where Father is a golden-diapered hammerhead shark, Mother is a sponge, and placentas are symbolized by near-extinct dolphins in the Yangtze River. (To say nothing of the Chosen Fish or the begilled and beguiling Tartalisa; much respect to Karen Flood's literal costuming.)

It's not easy to keep all that afloat, and yet for most of the two acts, Me succeeds with a raw, showboating intensity. The lack of pretense ("Don't tell me you're going to pretend to fish," one actor complains) justifies even the prosaic stretches into Joyce-worthy absurdity ("When someone's obliminal nodes excite your oceanic plasma, you are hookt"), and Bromley finds excellent collaborators in director Alec Duffy and musician John Gideon. Dissemble as he might from the plot (which is the point), the direction – tightly focused, like a river itself – forces the action to continue, often in a theatrical way that raises our attention to detail (particularly the lighting, or lack thereof). Likewise, whether the music underscores melodrama or punctuates text into lyrics, it brooks the sense masquerading as nonsense.

It's hard to single out members of this cast, but Arthur Aulisi's physical control as a wooden doll, Sarah Malinda Engelke's grace and venom as a humanized dolphin, and Josh Hartung's big-cheeked, childish frown help to make the tangents a little more tangible. With so many pieces fighting for attention, a little slapstick goes a long way. And so does Me: from linguistic jokes ("So my wish come true is my fish come false?") to "hairy myths," all the way to a clash of parents who agree only that hate "depends on how you define 'raped by hippies.'" Suffice to say, Me is what Me is.

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