“Poetic Moose” | NOW Magazine | Stage Scenes | May 23, 2013 | by Jon Kaplan (Belated post)
Ever see a moose in a lyrical if sometimes manic mood?
You’ll find one in the Tarragon Extra Space, where One Little Goat Theatre, dedicated to presenting poetic drama, offers the English premiere of Quebec writer Claude Gauvreau’s play The Charge Of The Expormidable Moose, in Ray Ellenwood’s translation.
Absurdist, poetic and leaping wildly between madcap comedy and upsetting tragedy, the play was a flop in its original 1970 presentation. Regarded as a visionary writer, Gauvreau died in 1971, following years in a psychiatric hospital after the suicide of his muse.
That personal history most likely figures in the play, in which the central character, a poet named Mycroft Mixeudeim (Ben Irvine) lives in… a home? an asylum?… with four others (David Christo, Lindsey Clark, Lindsay Owen Pierre and Jessica Salguiero) who constantly play tricks on him. Unable to resist bashing down doors with his head to reach any woman he thinks is in distress, the naive Mycroft is regularly “called” by the planned shrieks of women, who then deny what they’ve done.
Are they four therapists trying to cure Mycroft’s sadness over the loss of his girlfriend, since they keep trying to pigeonhole him using various psychiatric labels? Or maybe they’re meddling, nasty friends who can’t resist playing with his head and repeating the cruel joke over and over? Gauvreau doesn’t say.
At the end of the first act, a helicopter pilot (Sochi Fried) crashes on the isolated property and becomes Mycroft’s main defender, though she’s not immune to being part of yet another attempt to cure him. And halfway through the second half, a sadistic man (Hume Baugh) takes over to make Mycroft’s life an even harsher hell.The writing is shot through with passages of grandiose language, bits of nonsense and gibberish and is occasionally reminiscent of Beckett; at one point, Mycroft delivers a speech that stylistically echoes Lucky’s monologue in Waiting For Godot.
Director Adam Seelig’s given a lot of thought to the demanding script in this fine production. Fried makes a sympathetic figure, and her scenes with Irvine are the most moving in the production, even when they’re discussing philosophical matters. Baugh’s black-garbed, cold figure is properly powerful, hard for the others to resist.
It’s Irvine who anchors the show with a bravura performance, whether speaking monologues to a mirror, or, when Mycroft is drugged, miming various absurdist scenarios (a camel becomes an elephant, a Turkish dancer morphs into a threshing machine, an orator changes into a grasshopper). Splendid work.Jackie Chau contributes an inventive design, including a series of pastel doors whose handles are hands, suggestive of a surreal Cocteau film. She puts the quartet of housemates in variations on tennis whites, though the games they play are aggressive and not at all fun. In Chau’s hands, the helicopter pilot becomes a vision in leather and parachute silk.