nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
January 11, 2008
Reggie Watts is one cool cat. The man, the voice, the Afro—a total package. Charming, funny, and compulsively watchable, he is one of the most distinctive performers to come down the pike in a while. And blending his vocals and grounded-then-out-there-then-grounded-again style of storytelling with live-mixed sound makes for a a highly entertaining evening.
In fact, my companions, avid theatergoers, said it was the best show they've seen in a while. I agreed, in that it is not like anything I've seen recently on the current New York theater scene, because it is so many things all at once.
Beats (supplied by Watts and his fancy little mixer whose name I didn't catch but sounded like the stuff that recording geeks' dreams are made of), dance, film, stand-up comedy, and political/cultural satire all blend together in a One-Man Talent Show with four supporting players.
His "duet" with dancer Amy O'Neal, where she dances and he provides the soundtrack, is a sight to behold, visually and aurally, and a gorgeous showcase for both performers. Her moves are as fresh as his sounds. They work together is such a way that you can't tell if it's entirely improvised or choreographed within an inch of its life. Something tells me that the latter is not how these two roll.
Watts sets the bar high with his music—freestyle beat box, stream-of-consciousness-styled lyrics, and a range that goes from the deep soulfulness of a Michael Franti to a falsetto reminiscent of a Bee Gee—and is met with the musical stylings of "aural phonation constructionist" (as she is listed in the program) Orianna Herrman. Together, they simply create beautiful music.
A short film, Jenny + Reggie, is sweet and funny. The couple is in love, so deep in a love that seems unbreakable, staring at and holding each other at sunset by the Brooklyn Bridge. That is, until Jenny's ex walks on by and she immediately, though only briefly, forgets Reggie is there.
And then he gets deep, with a personal story of time spent in Switzerland with his grandfather. Rather, it seems deep momentarily, until Watts whips out some linguistic gymnastics, changing up vowel sounds and toying with tone. We catch on. He knows. His timing is impeccable.
Director Tommy Smith has staged the piece with such fluid transitions that all this bangs in at under an hour. The supporting performers (there are two men, unfortunately not credited in the program) are on stage the whole time, stationed at laptops around the periphery. This may have proven distracting had I not been so transfixed by the man with the microphone. The man making all that beautiful noise.