Tuesday, June 12, 2018

To Fall Down at Your Door

Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation. ~Angela Carter

Let's call tonight an evening of deja-vu in the Ward.

When I saw there was a touring pop-up photo exhibit at Black Iris Gallery, I considered starting my evening there. When I saw that it was an exhibit of large-format black and white photographs by Bill Daniel, the deal was sealed. That's because back in the dark ages of 2010, I'd gone to Gallery 5 to watch Daniel show a trove of lost and found music acts filmed between 1965 and 1987 and it had been fascinating.

As much as I'd enjoyed that, why wouldn't I want to see his photographs of skateboarders, punk bands, graffiti and the like from the past 35 years?

That's a rhetorical question, by the way.

The photographs were such snapshots in time, from the airborne skater with a Circle Jerks sticker on the bottom of his board to the punk singer - Fender guitar slung to the side and guitar pick between his bad teeth - playing the cowbell. Or put another way: it was an era when so many punk musicians were wearing Black Flag t-shirts to prove their cred.

Daniel captured the punk ethos in photo after photo, never more so than in a shot of a dingy music club door with a handwritten "NO MOHAWKS!" sign on it, in front of which was a mohawked guy in mid-jump in front of it. Another showed an old VW van modified with three sails atop it, presumably to increase the van's infamously slow pace.

Gawking at a photo of two '80s show-goers (her shoulder pads and bangles, his eyeliner and piercings), I heard my name and turned to see my favorite artist/DJ couple. After chatting about the exhibit and her new baby chicks (one of which she said likes to ride on the back of a full-grown chicken like it's a pony or something), we reverted to our favorite topic: what we're reading.

After mentioning Roberto Bolano, she asked if I'd ever read the English novelist Angela Carter, a new favorite of hers. Negative, I said and we launched into one of our standard procedure book talks (like we do) that involved her recommending Carter highly for her feminist, magical realistic style of writing. Sounds right up my alley.

But it was when she asked what was new with me that I had that moment. Where do I start when I run into friends I haven't seen for a while? In this case, I may have mentioned the update to my relationship status and having just returned from a long weekend at the river.

"Ooh, I like a man with a house on the river," she enthused with a knowing smile, since they live in his house on the Chickahominy River, a charming place, complete with chickens, that I'd visited last year. So she knows.

When I departed Black Iris, it was for some theater at the Basement, where I immediately ran into Foto Boy and his betrothed, an actress/director who was looking fabulous and theatrical in a way I could never pull off. Our first stop was at the bar in search of  alcohol for her, caffeine for him and sugar for me. Hey, whatever gets you through the play, right?

We were all there for the preview of TheatreLab's production of "Gruesome Playground Injuries," a play with which I had some familiarity, having seen a staged reading of it back in 2011. I said it was a night of deja-vu, after all.

Despite the intervening years. its poignant yet disturbing story had stayed with me. Imagine two kids who meet in the school infirmary at the tender age of eight; she's throwing up non-stop and he's ridden his bike off of the school's roof. Because boys are dumb.

The hook is that they immediately bond over shared maladies, touching each other's wounds and scars, while over the next thirty years, they continue to see each other periodically, always due to one or the other's sickness or injury. And to be clear, it's a story with many, many funny moments despite the gruesome injuries.

A dungeon is a place where people can go to languish.

They're both damaged souls and whether it's a fireworks accident that causes Doug to lose an eye or Kayleen's self-medicating and cutting, the two continue to share an increasing bond of personal pain throughout their friendship/love.

I don't want my first kiss to be with you. AND I just threw up.

When I'd first seen it, I kept hoping that they would acknowledge their feelings for each other, but there were always hospital beds and comas and psychiatric institutions keeping them distracted from their true feelings.

The top ten things anyone has ever done for me were all done by you.

As with any two-actor production, it's all about the chops and chemistry of the actors and Jeffrey Cole and Rachel Rose Gilmour nailed their characters in all their dysfunction and tragedy. Cole singing in a thick Scottish brogue while trying to dance with Gilmour to the Proclaimers' "500 Miles" was nothing short of masterful. And hilarious.

One particularly clever device was that the scenes didn't play out in chronological order, so we saw them first as children, then young adults, then back to teens, then slightly older adults and so on, while music marked scene transitions and the passage of time. From Aimee Mann's "Save Me" through David Gray's "Please Forgive Me" to a cover of REM's "Everybody Hurts," the music helped with the ten- and fifteen-year jumps the script made while providing time for the actors to change clothes onstage.

TheatreLab, you never cease to impress me.

As an added accompaniment to the theatrics we'd come to watch, throughout the production we also got a symphony of jackhammers blasting Broad Street just outside the Basement's door. It was the sound of the city desperately trying to finish up the Pulse construction for the touted completion date and while the cacophony was superfluous to the story, it did add a certain city grittiness.

Punk photographs, an emotional tour de force of a play and an unexpected chance to catch up with two favorite couples along the way. Exactly what a city woman needs after languishing at the rivah for a few days.

And by languishing, I mean having the time of her life.

No comments:

Post a Comment