Saturday, July 25, 2009

Love Me and An Empty Stage, ACC Experimental Student Performance Lab, July 15 - 25

Austin Community College's summer 2009 Experimental Student Performance Lab got off to a good start for me with Philip Kreyche's expressionistic two-act work
Love Me, preceded by Ryan Manning's whimsical curtain-raiser The Empty Stage.

Manning's short piece gives us Dani Miller as "Pye, the Man with No Memory," and Manning himself as "Que, The Man Who Reminds Him."
Imagine Estragon and Vladimir, respectively, except that instead of waiting for Godot, they're trying to construct a story for themselves. Author Manning awards himself the smarter of the two roles, in which he impatiently corrects and cues Pye while cadging cigarettes from him.

They eventually concoct lightweight fantasies, enlivened by the appearance of Sally Ziegler, Ariel-like, as "the beautiful girl" and "the Spanish princess," and by Phillip Kreyche as "the last man of high moral character." Our two tramps wind up paddling an invisible canoe up the center aisle, finishing their dialogue behind us, and after a pause the action begins for the two-act production.

In the Q&A afterward an audience member confessed to being confused by the fact that the company made no explicit demarcation between the two pieces. The casts overlapped, but each piece was announced separately in the program.

Kreyche's two-act
Love Me is triply impressive. He dug deep into German literary history to find the source documents, including especially an eerie quasi-autobiography by the Viennese painter Oskar Kokoschka describing the artist's self-destructive infatuation with Alma Mahler, wife of the composer. He wrote a piece that is starkly expressionistic in style, using incidents from Kokoschka's life and portraying them with a mixture of narrative and mad illusion. And he played the principal character, Kokoschka, with stage presence, palpable emotion, and style.

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