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playing for DUMMYs - Laura Lechner

I have been thinking about this little play for several days - I saw it Friday night, and I keep going back to images, moments, phrases, melodies that seem to haunt the world that Michael Sommers, Elise Langer and Bob Rosen have created as much as they haunted me. This "dis-play" brings together elements that I have seen Sommers explore again and again in his work; word play, both verbal and written in the form of various art objects, water, spinning objects and wigs. It's intriguing to see what an artist goes back to, what makes up his or her particular performance vocabulary. Using these tools, the dis-players conjure (a word that Michael frequently uses to describe his creation process) up a melancholy world, where people struggle with the expression of love, and the ventriloquist dummies know more about the human condition than the humans.

Melancholy is the word that keeps popping up when I think about Dummy, and when I have conversations about it with other people. To be melancholy isn't quite the same as being sad, or despairing, or being depressed. It have it's own ethereal, fragile quality, and it is in this fragility that Sommers and Langer's characters seem to exist. Langer's smile, as I think Kate pointed out, encapsulates this heart-breaking quality. I haven't seen a performance with this much pathos in a long time - pure, unadulterated emotion present on stage. Sommers uses the phrase "having the appearance of being real" in the show. I think, through the use of objects, imagery and text, that Dummy gets very very very close to approaching the real.

Comments

Dummy: A Dis-Play
Open Eye Figure Theatre

One might miss the theatre all together in light of the large footbridge across the street that seems to demand more attention the entrance. However, once inside it is like stepping into an old movie. The art on the walls has a hand made feel that demonstrates a personal quality and the stage is small and welcoming, allowing the viewer to choose their seats. I love when tickets are first come, first serve, there’s nothing more depressing than having to sit assigned in a bad spot. The stage is versatile. Every object has multiple uses and each is reintroduced throughout the entire performance. This is extremely effective in keeping me engaged in that I am constantly alert and aware of what is going on. I want to read the writing and follow the dynamic lighting as it reveals more and more to me with each minute. The use of balloons is very dramatic, allowing for sound, color, and emotion to be openly and successfully expressed whether the performers were celebrating, smelling, or destroying them with darts. In fact, one of the most pivotal moments was when the character of L stabs the character Leonard with a dart in the heart. The intermittent acts are beautiful breaths of entertainment that is simple but highly enjoyable and refreshing. It reminded me of old time cartoons, like Chuck Jones; from I believe the forties and fifties, when the littlest actions, such as an implied smile or shrug, would reveal everything, making the viewer feel intimate. Although, much to my surprise, very little dummies were used, the title is more appropriately a theme relating to the concept of humans as puppets. The music and lighting was surreal and I desperately would love to know how to come across some of my very own. The plot is amazing, invoking in me a wide range of emotions, I laughed hard, and came close to tears. I am looking forward to going again soon, and taking my family with me. Thanks for the heads up Laura :)