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Flash Review 3, 1-25: Oh, Lost Ending
Imago's Multi-Media Tapestry Lacks a Thread

By Karinne Keithley
Copyright 2001 Karinne Keithley

PORTLAND, Oregon -- In Imago's Theater's "Oh Lost Weekend," presented last weekend at its home theater space, Carol Triffle, as Vickie Brown of Goshen, New York (accused of and committed for impersonating Queen Victoria of England), makes a chain-link fenced box her stage and asylum. A threadbare plot involving her subsequent trial for treason binds together a series of scenes that constitute essentially one long monologue. More than a play about identity delirium, madness or either Victoria, "Oh Lost Weekend" is a series of images and scenes which showcase Triffle.

"Oh Lost Weekend" achieves some grace when images are derived from the set. When Triffle descends from the flies in a white psych-ward shift, in a calm, wide stance on a table precariously swinging from side to side, she looks as if she is the calm bliss of delirium (imagine Elvis on quaaludes consorting with Raphael's cherubs). As her table gets closer to the ground, she swings in front of Laura Lou Pape McCarthy, who is standing on a tall stool, her white nurse's uniform wrapped in a coat that is almost bridal, with a long white train. McCarthy deftly steps onto the platform. As Triffle lies down, McCarthy, serenely self-possessed, sings to her, "Don't slide off your bed, or you could lose your head."

Later, when the plot concludes with a trial by water, Triffle is forced by two menacing figures into a tank of water. Whereas the formally "choreographed" segments of the piece don't seem to arise from a physical logic, but rather some idea of a dance vocabulary with which only McCarthy seems truly comfortable, the movement that is more task-oriented (set-specific one could say) is often beautiful. In the water tank scene the movement vocabulary is made up of small, strange dog paddles, and backward and forward flips. Pieces of clothing are dropped one by one into the tank. Watching Triffle dress underwater -- in a slip, a skirt, a respectable top and jacket, and heels, until she is floating in the water, business suit billowing -- is one of the most strange and lovely images I have seen.

The piece is a confluence of media that typifies a certain style of physical theater which combines mime, dance, clowning, music, writing, and set design, where the use of each element is fluid enough to take on the logic of another. What this has the potential to produce is a kind of theatrical image which is both poetic and concrete: Images which nail something in several different dimensions, and which aren't exactly abstract, and yet not exactly literal. The moments in "Oh Lost Weekend" when this happened were stunning: the song on the swinging table, the scene in the water tank, lines like "I want my Albert back" couched in the middle of an odd unison sequence of lying down and sitting up.

This collision of media was also the production's weakness, however, as it became clear that a mastery of each element was secondary to the conception as a whole. Much of the show's unevenness resulted from this problem -- unsophisticated dances awkwardly executed, monologues lacking a commanding guide of tension and information, all delivered in an unconvincing warble. I suspected that Triffle, who wrote, designed, directed and starred in the piece tried to do too much.

Oh, lost ending. Unfortunately, Triffle emerged from the water tank and delivered one more repetition of a tired monologue on her slip into a weekend's madness (How many times can she tell us, "I lost the weekend. I never found it.") Going on, she concludes that life is just a cigarette and another drink. What? She toasts the audience and the lights go out.

 

Karinne Keithley is a New York-based dancer, choreographer, and teacher.

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