Monday, March 14, 2011

The Man Who Turned Into A Stick – Geopolis Theater Company

Usually in plays with titles like “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick,” I expect it’s going to be a Jackie Chan kung fu epic with an old beardy master who trains a stupid jerky guy to find himself through fighting, using a “stick” metaphor to explain to the guy how he should be when he fights, and then the beardy master gets kidnapped and the now enlightened guy has to rescue him and stuff.

But no, the guy in this play actually turns into a stick. Like, a twig.

“The Man Who Turned Into A Stick” from Geopolis Theater Company is a delightful romp (directed by Japanese-ish guy Eric Turner) through some one act plays written by this Japanese guy in the sixties (Kobo Abe). The other plays are called “Suitcase” (where a guy turns into a suitcase), “The Cliff of Time” (where a guy turns into a crappy prizefighter) and the titular “The Man Who Turned Into a Stick” (where a guy turns into a stick). All of the guys are played by one guy, which makes it seems like all the plays are supposed to go together or something.

The place where the plays are performed is totally not a theater. It’s a Japanese Cultural Center. By which I mean it’s a dojo.

So, I got really, REALLY excited when I had to take my shoes off and walk across the room-sized mat to get upstairs to where the play was being performed. I was really thinking I was going to be walking into a real-live Tekken when I emerged from the stairway, but I was sorely mistaken. There were just some people in crazy costumes standing still and staring at nothing. But THEN I thought maybe they’re just getting focused to fight and stuff..?

Wrong. No fighting in this/these play(s). The first one (“Suitcase”) is about this lady (Miona Harris) whose husband’s at work or whatever and has this person-shaped suitcase (Chris Sanderson) that makes goofy noises while he’s gone. The lady’s friend comes over (Marissa Cowsill) and tries to jimmy it/him open. Apparently it contains the voices of the lady’s husband’s ancestors, who were all apparently radio announcers because all the noises it/he makes sound like radio commercials. I totally understood it.

So in the next one (“The Cliff of Time”) the suitcase guy turns into an actual guy and everybody else in the cast ties really long strips of fabric to him. Accompanied by some ominous taiko drums, the cast members all stood with the other ends of the fabric in the corners of the playing space. He was like the hub of a wheel! A hub that is a boxer training rigorously for a fight, that is! This part really showed off the abdominal muscles and skinniness of Chris Sanderson, also some of his acting as it was a one man gig. I wish I hadn’t just seen “The Fighter,” because Chris totally could have been Christian Bale or any other boxer in that.

Finally, the big stick-man one (“The Man Who Turned Into a Stick”). A guy dies and turns into a stick and goes to hell.

For presumably not having any money as most small theatre companies don’t, I thought this was a really good set of plays. It was really transcendent and things and might have something to do with the trials of contemporary people struggling with individuality in a contemporary society. But I don’t know. All the acting was really good, especially Sanderson. His performance was reminiscent of Tyler Durden plus Twyla Tharp with all his moving around and being different things and people. Mostly Tyler Durden because of his washboard abs.

Also notable was Marissa Cowsill, who looked/was like this girl in Inuyasha or one of those adult swim anime cartoons. Her hair was red and her eyes were huge, a credit to her preparation.

The rest of the cast (Jon Beal, Miona Harris and Josh Hoover) really did a good job moving like people are supposed to move in these stylized kind of plays. They definitely reminded me of people in Japan.

So go check this play out. I might go again because it got my gusto up to just roll around on that mat and pretend I’m Ryu from Street Fighter for a while. SHORYUKEN!

-Michael Peters

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