THE MONSTER SHOW
at Club Lower Links
The Monster Show seems fundamentally designed to give performance artists a chance to place unfinished, perhaps even unrehearsed pieces in front of a very supportive audience of fellow artists and hangers-on who have come as much for the beer as the show. People gather here to have a good time, so the performances are not held to the same standard as they might be at a place like Randolph Street Gallery, where the more formal, professional atmosphere focuses audience attention on the work. The cabaret setting here was appropriate, however, to these pieces, which varied in length from 30 minutes to 30 seconds--they could never have stood up to such scrutiny.
Seeing The Monster Show is a bit like watching artists in rehearsal, working through a series of raw, unedited impulses. This gives the evening a certain volatile, unpredictable quality. It also makes certain sections quite dull. None of the pieces seemed complete or thorough, but certain moments had at least the potential for excitement.
Douglas Grew performed a curious, mischievous little piece in a masterful Pan costume--masterful because it didn't seem like a costume at all. Posing languidly and holding a full glass of red wine, he said that he was recently in a barbershop full of old men reading dirty magazines. "And I realized," he concluded, "that I loved those men!" Then he threw his head back and laughed, and continued to laugh as he exited.
The contradictions in this shockingly brief piece delighted me. A Greek god rhapsodizes over old men reading Penthouse. An artist spends probably an hour on his costume and then performs for 30 seconds. Watching this piece was like glimpsing an accident: it grabbed my attention and then almost immediately disappeared, and I was left trying to reconstruct the event to make sense of it.
Kaja Overstreet and Michael Zerang created a stunning visual image in their collaborative piece. Four nearly naked people painted light green were led on dog leashes by a huge man in a black suit with a grotesquely painted white face. They all moved in slow motion, the "animals" hunched over and performing with pathetic smiles while their "trainer" contorted his face into silent howls. Eventually the trainer lip-synched "I Got You, Babe," with new lyrics sending up Jesse Helms's antigay agenda. Though the satire was perhaps too obvious, the image was truly nightmarish.
Seamus Mallone performed a tight, carefully controlled piece using light bulbs. Dressed in a huge black tuxedo and black industrial rubber gloves, his head wrapped in burlap and crowned with white Christmas- tree lights, Mallone methodically picked up light bulb after light bulb, screwed them alternately into his mouth or left hand, and then dropped them into a wastebasket. The image was powerfully sad and decadent, as if this formally dressed creature were trying pathetically to make himself more beautiful. I look forward to seeing what Mallone does with this character.
Levonne McAlister performed an inaccessible work full of personal anecdotes about growing up in New Orleans with his grandmother who used to "scare the shit out of him." McAlister also read to us several of his dreams, and intermittently sang a little ditty with the lyrics, "There is nothing I wouldn't do / For a comfortable hut to sleep in / And the very finest food to eat." I couldn't piece the work together, and the darkness of the stage coupled with McAlister's flat delivery made the work frustrating.
Spencer Sundell performed a satirical folk song about dating that contained the unfortunate refrain: "She made me so mad / I cut off her head." I was appalled to hear the audience laugh good-naturedly.
The Monster Show I saw was basically a private party; everyone involved seemed to know everyone else, bartender, audience members, and performers alike. Clearly the evening was as much about blowing off steam and getting a little sauced on a Wednesday night as it was about performance. This wasn't a show that takes care of its audience; instead it just assumed the audience would have a good time. It's not my cup of tea, but those around me certainly seemed happy and rejuvenated when the evening was over.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/S. Antonini.