Kingdom of Not
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
November 4, 2006
Kingdom of Not is a one-man show in which the dedicated performer Dan Carbone takes us on a surreal trip. He appears on the cozy, warm set looking like an innocent small-town fellow in a pair of red suspenders over a white shirt and beige pants. What ensues is a wild rant in which Carbone inhabits the character of one Anita Humm, a zany woman from Turkey Bluff who discovers a special baby boy and becomes his caretaker. Anita introduces Randall to a variety of people and non-people in her life, including the creatures inside her rug. Anita reads the baby a note from the creatures in which they declare, "We are trying to jump the bones of the creatures and create more creatures."
This show is not so much about the strange things that happen to Anita while she takes refuge with the boy in her crumbling old house, but about Carbone's performance. First of all, watching a grown man spending an hour and 15 minutes playing a woman without any attempt at drag creates a dissonance that keeps the mind awake. Add to that the strangeness of watching him also act out a baby, a talking rat, a gossipy librarian, and various other characters, and you've got yourself something to watch.
Anita tells the audience, "This whole story is the truth! And I ain't so hardly ever lied! Hardly ever!" By the time she says this, one feels certain that while our narrator wouldn't deliberately lie, her command of reality might not be that sharp, as we also see her yell at some dogs, "We have a reason to live and you do not!"
At one point during the monologue—which, really is hardly a monologue as there are so many characters; it's more like a one-man play—Carbone is an ant, saying, "I'm young, spry, and reasonably well-adjusted considering what the world has done to me. Actually, I'm a little neurotic, but it works for me."
Carbone periodically sings in strange voices, as when he croons in the persona of an ant, "Eeeeeee aaaaayahhhh ohhhhh," and then says, "That's my first name." He can somehow get away with having characters say lines that seem deeply philosophical at first even if on further inspection don't make that much sense: "Sometimes I feel as if I'm pressed up against a balloon and the thing I'm trying to see is on the other side of the balloon. I'm trying to see it. I'm trying to make it all fit together."
It somehow does all fit together, though it's hard to say why or how. At the end I didn't feel like I'd gotten to the real end of a story, but that's not what this show is about. We are just taken on Anita's journey with her baby and the strange creatures of their world.
Now, this show is not for everyone: If you only like feel-goods or plays with a strong throughline and do not have a taste for the bizarre, this won't be for you. If you are, however, willing to go along on someone's ride, it's certainly worth taking this chance. Watching Kingdom of Not is like being in a car with someone who zigzags left and right and makes you periodically unclear where you're going to end up; but then you do end up somewhere, and while it might not be exactly familiar, you're never sorry you went.