Friday, March 27, 2009

Rambo Solo

I went to see this on Wednesday with Performance Club and think that it was the first thing I've attended with the group that I didn't enjoy. It's not that I hated it or had a particularly negative reaction to it . . . I just found it frequently tedious. At first I thought that the fact that I've never seen Rambo nor have I read the novel, First Blood, upon which it's based might be what prevented me from being more actively engaged. But it turned out that many people were equally unfamiliar with the source material but enjoyed Rambo Solo much more than I did. It might have been partially that I was uncomfortable. We were all sitting on this shag carpet with cushions and unless you were sitting against the wall--which I wasn't--there was nothing to lean against. By the end of the show I was fairly cranky about that.  But at the same time, some of the parts where I was most bored were toward the beginning, before I was all that uncomfortable. 

I think that sometimes it's hard to say why you're bored by something that other people enjoyed. I just had trouble getting into the story and for quite some time felt like I wasn't interested in having it recounted to me. With books I'm pretty comfortable saying that something--however great it may be--just isn't for me. With performance I'm often much more anxious about doing that; I feel as if I'm just missing something or being a lazy viewer. But in this case I think it really is just that the show wasn't my cup of tea and I feel pretty much OK about saying that. 

I'm not saying that the show doesn't have value for me.  There were moments I loved, particularly in the way Zachary Oberzan used his apartment as the setting for the story. There was a very childlike sense of play in his crawling under the futon or pretending the loft bed was a cliff (not to mention throwing M & Ms). In a sense he seemed to be transposing the make-believe games of childhood into an adult setting where they are no longer so normal and expected and where willing co-conspirators are thin on the ground. I haven't gone crawling around on my floor for any purpose other than cleaning it in years, but watching the show reminded me how fun that had been when I was a kid.

I'm also much more interested in Rambo Solo in retrospect than I was while actually experiencing it. As the retelling of the story came to its climax, I became more engaged. I grew interested in Rambo Solo as a portrait of an obsession and I actually wanted to know how it would end, since I didn't already know the story. It's also a testament to the way in which books can influence us. How they can get under our skins and into our heads. Even when they're not very good books. Or at least not of any particular literary value. But by the point when I actually started to be interested in these things my tailbone was killing me and I didn't feel like the payoff was enough for my prior boredom. 

The way I felt was far from universal though, and to read the interesting-as-always Performance Club conversation go here

Also over on the WNYC blog: a post about The Wooster Group's La Didone where the comment thread has focused in part on the use of technology in live performance. I haven't been able to get to the show--much to my disappointment since I thought it sounded pretty awesome--but I've been following the discussion closely as these multimedia, technology embracing performances are something I'm kind of conflicted about. 

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