A CurtainUp Review
Total Fictional Lie
By Les Gutman
The way the audience first meets the character of Paul Anka (Susie Sokol) in the opening scene of Total Fictional Lie. reminds me of a collage, a collage being an art form in which material of different types is glued together to create an image. Usually, it produces a message that requires a bit of intuition but rarely much sophistication. As practiced by the Dadaists, it had an exuberant sense of humor that translated into a positive energy in spite of a provenance rooted in pessimism.
The approach of Elevator Repair Service strikes me as a collage in which the media of words, music, sound clips and movement are glued together. Juxtaposed notions are not formally rationalized but there is nothing inaccessible about their work. It is joyful in spite of what seems to be a cynical core and yes, there is a distinctive Dada influence at work here.
In this latest effort, the repair people have chosen a frolic on the phenomena of documentary films. Drawing words and attitudes (but no video clips, this is decidedly low tech) from four seemingly unrelated pieces, they romp from an examination of the career of Paul Anka (from a film called Lonely Boy),to the "selling" of Aileen Wuomos, the infamous serial killer, to door-to-door Bible peddlers in the 1960's. (I confess I'm not quite sure how or where the fourth film, Vernon, Florida, fits in.) The parts are not sequenced and sometimes trespass on each other. The substance, such as it is, is stitched together with affectingly dippy dance numbers that seem at first to be irrelevant but later to be the point.
Amused by the way people conduct themselves when being interviewed, the hour-long performance maintains its offbeat sense of humor, never losing momentum. After culling the films for a few choice moments that are re-enacted (often through fractured lenses) onstage, the group, aided by choreographer Katherine Profeta, has reinterpreted the body language it has discovered into movement that teeters on the thin line between being assured and authoritative, on the one hand, and awkward and uneasy on the other.
A large wooden box (shown in the picture above) is a portal from, in and to which many of the characters move. At one point, three of the limber actors find themselves in it at once. Most of the rest of what makes its way onto the naked stage is of a type was likely found discarded on the street -- a broken office chair, a plastic tub seat, etc.
It takes a talented group of people to undertake this sort of project and render it both theatrical and entertaining. Elevator Repair Service brings together a group of people who have the wherewithal, stamina, spirit and awareness to make it succeed. I'll end with a telling Village Voice quote from one of the two directors of Total Fictional Lie, John Collins:
The real tension is not about artists doing things they know people won't understand -- it's about artists having a certain faith in their audience's ability to go with them to a place they believe in.