Freebird Goes to Mars
Freebird Goes to Mars
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2015 Solo Creation Festival: Remix

 

Reviewed by Bill Raden

Son of Semele Theater

Closed

 

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This is the second year of Son of Semele’s Solo Creation Festival, the experimental incubator for short, single-performer works founded by artistic director Matthew McCray and producer Ashley Steed that seeks to extend the avant-garde reach of the venerable one-person show. And judging by the irresistible double bill offered by this Remix weekend, which paired two of the best shows for two nights only, the festival looks like it’s bearing some fascinating fruit.

 

With Freebird Goes to Mars, Betsy Moore (with co-creator/director Alex Suha) adds another fierce and fearless portrait to a personal gallery of chameleon stage grotesques that includes the actress’s searing turn as Joan Vollmer in last year’s Bill & Joan at Sacred Fools. This time out Moore, unrecognizable in pink glasses, a close-cropped blonde wig and unflattering house pants, plays the middle-aged Betty, a plain-speaking Walmart cashier as she packs up her belongings and a lifetime of memories for what will prove to be a very long trip.

 

As Betty wistfully reflects on her six husbands and her institutionalization for chronic alcoholism, the piece’s humanity and genuine fondness for its subject transcends mere satiric caricature. And just at the point where one begins to wonder where Moore and Suha can possibly take the piece to escape the pedestrian pull of its colorful but somewhat familiar subject, Freebird suddenly blasts off into a more poetic realm with a balletic coup de théâtre that, beyond saying it includes an inspired Stanley Kubrick homage, would be too much of a spoiler to describe.

 

Objectify is writer-performer Suzan Averitt’s sly multimedia descent into the fever-dream of commodity fetishism that Guy Debord famously called the “degradation of being into having.” And existence doesn’t get much more debased than Averitt’s frazzled and wildly unkempt museum docent known only as Not Madeleine. The playfully Proustian allusion sets director Jeff G. Peters’s nearly bare stage for what becomes a literal “memory play” as Not Madeleine treats the audience to a guided inventory of an emotionally barren life that is defined solely by her relationship to things.

 

And while it is unclear whether the tatty collection of second-hand kitsch and used thrift store furnishings that she describes is real or just a hallucination of former possessions, what emerges is a picture of a New Age-addled hoarder gone off the rails. The lone piece of furniture that is unmistakably present — an upholstered red armchair that Not Madeleine has appropriately named “Red Chair” — becomes the centerpiece of Objectify’s deliriously outrageous climax in which Not Madeleine takes her obsessive-compulsive attachment to the chair to its most outrageous and literally fetishistic extreme.

 

2015 Solo Creation Festival: Remix, Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Westlake; Closed. Sonofsemele.org.

 

 

 

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