Thursday, January 27, 2011

THEATER: The Momentum

Photo/Max Ruby
There's something inherently appalling about self-help seminars: the idea of a super-serious guru getting up on a stage and telling you that they can radically Change Your Life because they have The Secret doesn't seem much more practical than the wisdom of fortune cookies and horoscopes. In fact, the whole thing begs to be mocked, particularly if there's an element of truth to the lecture, for it's far easier to laugh at others than to focus on one's self. That's what's so interesting about CollaborationTown's The Momentum; it begins as a full-on parody, but over the course of the next hour, turns into something serious, at which point the only sign of the show's Fringe origin is its low-budget "set" (three chairs) and a few momentarily troubling transitions (an out-of-place song jumps to mind).

Things get off to a speedy start, as Boo Killebrew and Jordan Seavey introduce their fellow lecturer, Geoffrey Decas, with a round of rather forceful and overenthusiastic clapping. Decas follows that up with a series of more-and-more exaggerated actions and metaphors ("You'll feel like a dolphin that just killed a great white shark") and a variety of calmly expressed non-sequiturs ("I know the meaning of rope"). Before long, we're being encouraged to "tell those storm clouds of anger thoughts to rain elsewhere" as the three performers speak as one, their every move a carefully considered bit of blocking, each smile a trembling, artificial thing.

Before long, however, the deadpan starts to bleed away, as if the cast members are cultists who have snapped out of their brainwashing but are too terrified to break character, and their struggle between selling "The Momentum" and believing it becomes the highly comic hook of the show. (It also demonstrates a great deal of facial comedy, particularly with the show-stealing Killebrew, whose mimed handling of a "hot potato" could be a play in of itself.) The more specific the play becomes, as during the "Pain is a Myth" section, the less we laugh at these characters, and the more we laugh for them. The show ends with a triptych of (seemingly) personal monologues, each told in the second person, that wouldn't feel out of place in a Neo-Futurist show, as Seavey talks about overcoming his nerves to return to the dating scene, Decas finds a cause worth fighting for, and Killebrew, in a heart-breaking monologue, details the six-month aftermath of a brutal breakup.

This show probably won't change your life, but under the guise of some earnest comedy, it may ring some chords on your heartstrings. It's no mistake, after all, that The Momentum ends with an admonition to "Be still, and know that you are here."

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