nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 15, 2007
You know, if you're not a part of the gunfire, you're part of the problem. Thankfully, Trav S.D. is part of the gunfire. He's taking potshots at the state of performance art, which over the past few decades has mutated into nicely packaged isms. Trav S.D.'s hilarious performance is fueled by his frustration with those who have hijacked the spontaneity of art and the surreal. He is armed with the very weapons that these hijackers use to sell us this art—pretentiousness, aesthetic deconstruction, and a far-out hairdo.
Trav S.D. plays a Beatnik buffoon named Nihils who is just too hip to be annoyed by our presence. His presence, however, is like a black hole (literally and figuratively) in that he is dressed entirely in black (black gloves, sunglasses and wig included) and that he sucks his audience into himself and his world like a singularity sucking light out of the galaxy. This performance is like the Big Bang of kitsch. It is part blank verse Beat nonsense, part one-liner "bah dum bum" standup, and part stream-of-semi-consciousness. He attacks everything from performance art to the culture industry to consumerism with a sort of Marshall McLuhan-on-mushrooms mystique. There is a trippy jazz trio (guitar, clarinet, and viola) that takes the stage with him, playing discordant riffs and displaying little to no emotion while doing it.
Trav S.D. is quite simply hilarious. Even when his one-liners fall flat he's hilarious. When it comes to one-man shows what I like to see is absolute commitment to the character or characters the performer is portraying and that's what Trav S.D. gives us. His character, Nihils, is the total embodiment of the performance's themes. He does not rely solely on his text or on hamming it up to get his theme across but rather he lets his message flow through his posture and gesture and every other aspect of his invention. This is not to say that his text doesn't hit the nail (and everything else, for that matter) on the head. He collages rant and vaudeville and poetry and pun and prattle like a found object mural. He shouts, "All hands on decadence!" as he tries to keep his head from rolling off his shoulders and his hair out of his mouth. I laughed at him, I laughed at myself, and I laughed at my culture all with equal zeal.
Technically the show looks good. We open with a crazy remix of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" by Arthur Schlenger and accompanied by short, clever turns of phrase projected on a screen. There is a short film that S.D. overdubs live that is just shoddy enough to be appreciated. There are many quick blackouts that didn't really seem necessary to me though they didn't bother me that much. The jazz trio, Blaise Siwula, Robyn Siwula and Ed Chang, are just perfect for this show. They set the mood and break it too.
This show is a part of the Pretentious Festival at the Brick and I can think of no better show to fit that bill. Even his name, Trav S.D., is admittedly pretentious. He makes every moment interesting, funny, and dismantling. His ill motives are for us. He's shooting for us. See there, the man that rocks the boat generally doesn't have time to row it. He needs us there to row for him even if we all annoy him. Don't miss this show. It is eternally a work in progress. So catch it in whatever form it appears next.