This is your brain on reality. Maybe.
Mark Anderson's new monologue, under the Theatre Gigante banner, keeps it light and funny as it runs deep.
Mark Anderson, alone on a floor bare but for a desk and a chair, quoted director Peter Brook: I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage.
Anderson took four strides and stopped. He paused, to let that walk become an act of theater in his head and in the heads of those assembled Thursday evening for his Me, You, Art and Trout. Then he said: Poof! As in presto changeo, we have transformed an ordinary action into art by declaring it so. Poof! recurred throughout the monologue, as Anderson invoked Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades and, more dauntingly, our very complicity in climbing to the fifth floor of UWM’s Kenilworth Building to hear some guy tell us it’s art because we say it is.
Anderson crawled into our heads early in this monologue and stayed there for — how long? an hour? 90 minutes? Time seemed to stop within Anderson’s loopy, spiraling mind — and yes, we were as much into Anderson’s brain as he was into ours. His one-way conversation veered among topics confessional, theoretical, philosophical and, especially, epistemological.
I hasten to add that epistemology has never been mined for its humor as deeply as Anderson mines it. (Don’t ask me how I know that, I just do.) Me, You, Art and Trout is high-art stand-up comedy, and very funny. Anderson sets up punchlines you don’t see coming, but mostly he makes you laugh by putting your brain in a little different place. From this shifted perspective, things seem a little funny — funny ha-ha, funny-weird and funny-true.
And that’s not the half of it. In summary, Me, You, Art and Trout sounds like a disorganized ramble, and it does have that how-did-we-get-here? dizziness about it. But the disparate topics serve a common subject, and it’s big: How we perceive and process input from the world around us and how that input shapes our actions. In Anderson’s world, volition and circumstance twine so tightly and unpredictably that they can barely be distinguished, much less untangled. To Anderson, the result of this interaction is by nature so unlikely as to make ordinary life, the way things are, more fantastical than fiction, if you look at it the right way. His job, as an artist, is to make you look at it that way.
Mark and his wife, Isabelle Kralj (also his director in this production and partner in their Theatre Gigante) take a vacation. To New Mexico, as it happens. Isabelle wants to take a tram to the peak of a 10,000 foot mountain. But Mark — a tram hanging from a cable? no thanks. He waits at the car, which happens to have satellite radio service. He happens to light on a station that plays nothing but Grateful Dead. Which reminds him of his college and post-college experience with the band and its music. Which leads him to talk to all of us about the Grateful Dead on Thursday, Sept. 27, in Milwaukee.
Which is a blooming miracle, if you look at it the right way. And funny ha-ha, funny-weird and funny-true
Me, You, Art and Trout will play again at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28-29, in Kenilworth Room 508, at Kenilworth and Prospect Ave. Purchase tickets online or call the UWM Peck School of the Arts box office, 414 229-4308.
Cast and Credits: Writer-performer, Mark Anderson; director, Isabelle Kralj; technical director, Mike Gerlach; lighting designer, Rick Graham; lighting assistant, Nathan Booth.
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