Saturday, March 07, 2009

You need a docent lead you through Brooke Kiener's inventive production of Tina Howe's *Museum* at Whitworth. Only tonight and Saturday at 8 pm. But arrive early: You'll be escorted by a guy in a beret or an intense German postmodern woman past actual art to linger in front of "installations" that mock the pretentiousness of so much modern art. (The brief "tours" start around 7:15 pm.)

Bobo's away from his notes now and has spent all week slaving over next week's Best Of issue for The Inlander, but ... here goes. He really wants to recommend this show, kicks himself for not posting here sooner.
Only 200 admitted per performance; stadium-style seating, so you're staring at others who are staring at the art and you. Causes intense self-awareness. 19 actors play 40 roles -- therefore, you're not likely to see this 1976 script performed anytime soon anywhere other than in college or community theaters. And this production is, in many ways, a model of what a college show should be.
There are long patches in the script and the acting that are too broad and over-elaborated or over-acted, but ... it's an exceptional theatrical experience. No plot, just a pastiche (or is that panache, or paradigm?**) of linked vignettes involving the oddballs who hang out on the last day of an avant-garde art exhibit.
Kiener managed to collaborate on a large scale with Whitworth's art dept., whose students created the white paintings (!) and dummies on a clothesline (so evocative of the human predicament, in a post-post-modern way, don't you know?) along with another dozen collage-sculptures, all of which become, at various points, hilariously focal within the show.
Two gay men pontificate about art, the front of their hips preceding them into the space by several seconds as they prance about. Photographers and angry young sketch artists. Wealthy ladies who lunch (and gossip about art). Lunatics. Giggling schoolgirls. Tasteless Texans. More than I can even remember just now. The pace and the comedy are maintained well.
It may add up to a "Huh?" experience for some, but I think the comedy nicely balanced the thrust of all the pre-show manuevering, which gets us questioning, "What IS my relationship to art? Why DO we sort of assume that all art must be approached with great seriousness? When did the experts' insistence of art's need to have political meaning begin to outweigh simple, visceral pleasure of color and beauty?
Thanks to all at Whitworth for bringing

(** in-joke for those who've seen the show)

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