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.