Tales from Bordertown (prologue)
nytheatre.com review by Heather Lee Rogers
July 7, 2009
The stage is dark with just a handful of round glass bulbs hanging low around a long wooden table. There is a single chair at one end. Eric Dean Scott walks out—a little shy, a little wise—like he's got a secret. As the Bob Dylan music fades he ambles over, sits down and says "Let's get lost."
And, very willingly, I did.
In tales from bordertown (prologue), Scott (as both solo performer and writer) guides us through a landscape of wild adventures, vivid dreams, and an acute case of wanderlust. He sits there like a friend across the table from you in a bar, telling you stories all night long. They are the best kind of stories: funny, beautiful, dangerous, surprising...the kind where the teller gets into all sorts of entertaining trouble. These stories live in poetry, the literal and metaphorical blend over and again. He talks a lot about dreams, in particular the state upon just waking when you know you are awake, but the dream seems so tangible you are filled with uncertainty as to which world is real. In all of his stories he tries to define this, the poetry of which reality we choose to buy into. Also on this "border" between the real and the imagined, I couldn't tell you if it was well-crafted fiction or autobiographical material I was listening to—much to the credit of Scott's honest performance and detailed writing.
He begins with telling us about how when he was young he used to tell his Mom he was "going to the river"—which meant going to sit above the highway overpass to watch the traffic flowing north and south. When he sat there he felt a longing for something he couldn't name and he felt like he was there waiting for instructions from the Universe—waiting for his fate to arrive in the holy flood of headlights coursing up the road. His stories take him on many ludicrous road trips to Alaska, Texas, New York, Mexico, Chile, Peru, New Orleans, Ecuador, across great rivers both real and symbolic. He seeks out the "boarder towns" in the outlaw geographical sense as well as the bordertowns of his mind.
The performance is nearly two hours, a marathon for a solo performer. And it's just him sitting across that table telling stories for almost the entire time. But the stories are so wonderful and Scott has so much charisma that it doesn't feel that long. Even for a late show at the end of a bad day, with some painful seating at the theater, my attention wandered only once. And near the end when it did my mind flickered to the bridge I used to escape to as a kid. I'd sit and listen to the water lap in the sunset and fill up on all the dreams I had and yearn with all my might for what my life might bring. The show sent me, for an instant, to my very own river. But it was over in a flash and I was back with Scott, on the edge of my seat, hanging on every nuance of his crazy stories and engaging performance.
These days when I need to go to the river, I go to the theater. It allows me to refuel, to touch base with dreams, and most definitely, to get lost. Eric Dean Scott's tales from bordertown (prologue) carried me away beautifully with his first rate story-telling and elegant performance. Accept the invitation, go along for the ride.