The Fall and Rise of The Rising Fallen
nytheatre.com review by Maggie Cino
May 4, 2007
When you step into the downstairs venue at P.S. 122, you're immediately thrust back at least ten years, to an East Village very different from the one you just left. In the middle of the dark, low, unfinished space is a platform crowded with random appliances from toasters to treadmills, music equipment, and old torn-up dirty furniture. This is the East Village of the early '90s where random groups of motley musicians would tear up their vocal chords for the contents of a tip jar; it is, in three simple words, Totally Punk Rock.
And those three words pretty much describe avant-garde theater troupe Banana Bag and Bodice. Their current opus, The Fall and Rise of the Rising Fallen, chronicles the adventures of a rock band, the Rising Fallen, who rise to fame playing the oil rig circuit until a fight that has them screaming like six year olds eventually ends everything.
Much like an actual punk rock show, The Fall and Rise of the Rising Fallen succeeds mostly by determination and demented exuberance, with occasional bursts of poetic intensity. The cast is obviously enjoying the material and each other and a few moments really transcend. One is a whispered conversation between Ada, played by Heather Peroni, and Mosey, played by Jessica Jelliffe, about being sexually worshipped by Japanese businessmen at a high concept design show. Another is a story told by Westie, played by Rod Hipskind, who describes falling in love with an oil rig worker named Sven and doing yoga next to him on the slippery dock while he worked. In these moments the exuberant chaos coheres and the show becomes something more than the sum of its parts.
Some of the actors learned to play instruments just for this show, and that adds to the homemade, punk rock feel of the music. It also means the music is more enjoyable at certain times than others. Special note must be made of deep-voiced Peter Blomquist as lead singer Francoise; he is as handsome, musical, and distracted as Kurt Cobain ever was. The rest of the cast also deserves mention: Jason Craig's Jacko eventually tears the group apart, Casey Opstad is strange and compelling as their mysterious Scandinavian counterpart Bjorgo, and Mary Archias is sweetly enthusiastic as the Fan.
But you can't really talk about this show without mentioning the appliances. There's a treadmill that characters periodically run on that is lifted to make an ever-spinning road. There are toasters that make actual toast. Mallory Catlett's direction uses the makeshift, unpredictable world of electronics to mirror the makeshift, unpredictable relationships of the band.
Go with your friends on a weekend night, and have a drink beforehand. Enjoy the exuberance of the cast, the poetry of the script, and the theatrical use of appliances, and maybe think about ten years ago when junkies shivered upstairs and everything was raw and angry. Will your evening add up to more than that? My guess is that you're probably not going to care.