Friday, November 18, 2016

PREVIEW: Spectravagas: Holidazed!—Shaking The Tree Theatre—SE Portland

“Comedy Tonight!”

Art, Humor, Theatre and Entertainment have been around from the beginning of time, perhaps.  And, with that, those who choose to push the envelope.  Wonder what early Man might have found engaging in that vein?  Risque Cave Paintings of bare-skinned beauties?  Dino-Fights in an arena against Cave Men?  Rock Concerts---with real rocks?  Who’s to know…?!  But the early Greeks and Romans came up with some enduring writings.  According to Sam Dinkowitz, creator of this sketch-comedy type of theatre, in Aristotle’s Poetics it lists “Spectacle” as one of the ingredients to create drama and, thus, a concept was born.

Of course, who couldn’t forget Aesop, a Greek slave, with his gentle moralistic tales, or the Romans with their bloody, arena-style extravaganzas?  And then there was Shakespeare and his wise clowns, and medicine shows, music halls, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows, melodramas, et. al.,  graduating from that into Vaudeville and finally to film, stage and TV, like SNL, Weird Al, Monty Python, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Kids in the Hall, et. al., all inspirations for Dinkkowitz.  And so we come to his recent “spectacular,” on-the-edge humor and his most recent incarnation,“…using theatre with ulterior motives.” Their shows were originally staged at Post 5 Theatre, late-night fare.  Jessi Walters, a part of his company and also an audience member sometimes, put it this way, “…it’s a bit of anti-theatre…you’re invited to come in and let your hair down…fun catharsis…dangerously funny…whip-smart commentary on the topic de jour.”

Granted, this all boils down to Censorship and the right to voice what we want, regardless of social taboos, language, nudity, politics, religion, violence, etc.  Anything and anyone is game.  Sam says, “I have always been inspired by the more burlesque side of performance. The seedy theatres where the fun stuff happens late,” or, as he later espouses, “Revel in the fuckery.”  Walters adds, regarding the rehearsal process, “…always be looking for what we find as fresh and funny…quick, dirty, super challenging, and the most fun anyone could possibly have…a delightful beast…best part about Spectravagasam is that you can’t do wrong—it’s impossible….”

Of course, an audience may not think the same way so it works best for people who, at least, have an open mind.  In my reviews I am always alert people to possible harsh language, nudity, adult situations, etc. and then let the readers make up their own minds.  But it has never deterred me, either, from recommending a show.  And, keep in mind, the Eye of the Beholder, what offends one may not offend another.

So, if that is so, where do you draw the line?  Or do you even draw one?  In their estimation—No.  Jessi comments that we all wear masks, “…one that says, ‘I’m clean-cut, I’m buttoned-up, I’m a professional.’”  She goes on to say about this type of sketch comedy, it “encourages you to drop the entire premise…it challenges our assumptions of what is politically correct…and shake our heads in unison…it’s okay to be audacious…to color outside the lines, and that realistically we have a lot more in common with each other than we usually let on.”

Sam’s viewpoint is, it’s “…unorthodox and vulgar.  We say things you’re ‘not supposed’ to say (and do) onstage…We seek to evaluate cultural norms through comedic evisceration of the subject matter.  Our mission is to hyperbolize the human condition to the point of absurdity.  We will mock fanatics on all sides, without bias, and while busy laughing at yourself, you might think a thought worth thinking.”

My own views?  As a reviewer, pretty open to anything.  Probably the most controversial, from a global perspective, would be the Nazis and the Holocaust, but Chaplin, with his brilliant film, The Great Dictator and Mel Brooks with his To Be or Not to Be (based on a rather good earlier film version, with Jack Benny) and, of course, his Tony award-winning, The Producers, have destroyed that premise.  The Masters showed us how to break even that seemingly, iron-clad barrier.  Brooks view is that what villains hate most is to be laughed at, the best kind of ammo for hatred is laughter, according to him, and I agree.  In contrast, what is not funny, is a certain politician physically mocking an ill rival stumbling into a car.  “And the beat goes on…”

Future visions for them include looking for a permanent venue to call home, “a more consistent online presence with video content,” and, possibly, tour the show on the West Coast.  I’ve attached the info for his most recent show.  Personally I’ve seen both these artists in action in various other shows and have found them to be true professionals.  I would recommend seeing whatever they offer realizing, of course, the adult material of this type of entertainment.

Sam may put it best, “The world is so ridiculous right now, that if you can’t laugh about it, the only other option is crying all the time.  Find the joke in everyday life.  Open your eyes and see the punch-line…” Amen to that!