Destructo Snack, U.S.A.
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 2, 2012
When I came home after seeing Destructo Snack, U.S.A., I checked in on the internet, where I found this headline on MSNBC: "Five things to look out for in 'Game of Thrones' season finale." And I thought: this is why a theatre work like Destructo Snack, U.S.A. is so necessary these days. Mainstream media instructs the audience how to watch a TV show, for crying out loud (and apparently the audience is fine with that). What we need is a healthy dose of unfiltered and unexpected experience rather than the calculated, calibrated entertainments that too often constitute our only exposure to culture and art these days. Well, an experience is precisely what's delivered by Theresa Buchheister and Sarah Graalman in their new show at Incubator Arts, and for those in search of something that feels raw and immediate and visceral, I urge you to check out their work. (And I am not, by the way, going to identify five things you should be looking out for in it, either.)
Destructo Snack, U.S.A. is a performance in which a variety of behaviors—especially archetypal behavior; gender archetypes in particular—are demonstrated, explored, interrogated, and sometimes deconstructed. As we arrive in the space, writer-performers Buchheister and Graalman are mingling with audience members. At the stroke of eight, they head to the stage, even though the house lights remain on, where they begin to put on their makeup. The public acquisition of this literal layer of artifice portends what's to come: we'll be witnessing the assumption and discarding of multiple identities throughout the next hour, as our storytellers investigate some of the ways that people interact. Some of these people are presumably just like Buchheister or Graalman and some are very different: for example, Buchheister spends the first half of the show in male drag, with a mustache and several days' growth of beard stubble applied to her face.
The writing is vivid and interesting and the performances are, too. Stories are told and a picture—selective but expansive—of the world we live in is sketched out, sometimes with jolting detail. But we're always aware of the journey and, more to the point, of the artifice of this particular journey: Destructo Snack, U.S.A. is, on some level, as much concerned with why we gather in a dark room together to "do" theater as it is with the content it presents. This is evidenced by the one constant in the show, which is its unpredictability: though it's clearly meticulously arranged and rehearsed, it always feels spontaneous and organic. And the interplay of actors and spectators remains palpable throughout as we wait to see what will happen next...
It's ultimately kind of rejuvenating: theater generously shared rather than simply curated and presented, if you see what I mean. The program notes that we can feel free to roam around the space during the show (as long as we're mindful of others' sightlines), and that's exactly the kind of active engagement with the work that Buchheister and Graalman (and their talented collaborators Adam R. Burnett, Amy Virginia Buchanan, Nicholas Kostner, and Ann Sitzman) are after here. If you're looking for a simple, passive experience, Destructo Snack, U.S.A. is probably not for you. But maybe it ought to be.