Thursday, July 30, 2009

Los Grumildos

"The narrative is left to the viewers," boasts the beautiful, full-color, chock-full-o'-sordid-puppet-photographs program for Ety Fefer's Los Grumildos. It goes on to disclaim further: this work resists labels like "kinetic theater, art installation, and puppet performance," from which you can assume that it wishes to be all three. And yet, each "performer" is locked behind glass, the cheap mechanical pulley systems puppeting them in perpetua in full view, which leads us not to "fulfill our inner child's unconscious voyeuristic fantasies," but to coldly remark upon animated freak-show corpses. Guillermo del Toro might find a use for these creatures in a film, but on their own, they are neither special nor do they have an effect.

Los Grumildos is a self-guided tour, but then again, so is Ripley's Believe It Or Not, or Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, both of which offer similar "excitements." Are we supposed to be jaw-droppingly impressed simply because there's a high level of detail paid to each character's phallus? Even the laboriously rehearsed world of burlesque offers more immediate thrills than this. Leaving the narrative up to me implies that if I'm not thrilled by the dim lights, smoky air, disco ball, ragged red carpet, and old Hollywood music, it's a failure on my part--that's a cheap dodge on the "playwright's" end.

But let's lean in closer. A naked, pig-eared and nosed fellow stands by an amp, a half-filled bottle of bear beside it. His right hand's fingers are frozen in a plastic sprawl, gnarled thumb and waxy pinky forever pointing in opposite directions. Copperish wires jerk this hand up, another moves the ulna, another handles the head, the joints on the left. In this fashion, he is made to "strum" the guitar and tap one foot, an act that has been performed so often that there is a fine metallic powder beneath that stomping sole. Is it such a wonder that he has hairs threaded into his calves?

Ety Fefer has a vivid imagination, there's no denying that. In another display, a six-breasted cheetah-like (with diseased looking spots) is the lead singer, along side a Kruger-looking mandolinist, an aardvark drummer (whose penis resembles his nose), and a lizard-tailed porcupine-haired keyboardist. Elsewhere, a creature flaps its shriveled onion wings, dancing in its four white-heeled boots and waving its pincers. Hidden in back is the piece de resistance, the perverted dollhouse known as Bar Cairo. There's plenty going on in its five rooms (including a brothel and a bathroom), and at least there's no glass, but is it really voyeurism if the "cast" keeps performing the same actions, intent on you seeing them?

Los Grumildos is a cheap show, so if this sounds novel to you, it at least gives you a chance to check out the redesigned HERE Arts Center. Then again, given what this show expects from you, you might just as easily stay home and simply use your imagination.

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