Thursday, July 1, 2010

Art Ritual Arson With Youngblood

Wild, Unsubstantiated Speculation About the New Show By Benjamin James Wilson

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It’s been over a week since I’ve returned from outdoor theatre ins Spring Green, Wisconsin. The allergic congestion and subsequent inner ear infection have cleared from my head long enough to start speculating on the new Youngblood show . . .

Veteran fledgling theatre company (with another two new companies opening shows in a couple of weeks, it’s hard to keep track of exactly who is “new”) Youngblood Theatre opens a new show at the end of the month on the campus of UWM. It does so shortly before taking the show on the road to the Minnesota Fringe Festival. It’s the latest piece written by Youngblood resident playwright Benjamin James Wilson.

Wilson also wrote Godbridge for Youngblood’s debut season last year. Godbridge had an interesting ritualistic, mytho-poetic quality about it that seems to bleed a bit into his latest play Drive Me To Arson. Godbridge told the story of a man and a woman who were looking for a missing son who had disappeared under a bridge somewhere in a city not unlike Milwaukee . . . the journey Under The Bridge brought the protagonists directly in contact with a series of characters possessing a kind of vaguely divine madness. In a dark, dreamlike fairytale, the audience is introduced to a series of characters who all seem to posess a poetic kind of madness . . . each one of them engaging in the madness deeper and deeper in hopes of finding the lost son. There was a gently forlorn feeling to the drama that still lingers in the backwaters of my consciousness . . . it was staged on a limited budget in UWM’s Kennilworth Square building somewhere in the rush of all the other shows Youngblood was opening that month, but it’s stuck with me . . .

And now, Youngblood brings Wilson’s latest to the stage . . .Drive Me To Arson is about a man named Avery Canon—a gentleman the press release refers to as, “a run-of-the-mill, yet henpecked, poet by day,” who ignites things at night. Judging from the press pic above, it looks like David Rothrock will be playing the arsonist. (He’s the one with the lighter) Also featured above are Rich Gillard (with the red ice scraper) and Adnrew Edwin Voss (with the blue ice scraper.) The rest of the plot description shadows moods from Wilson’s Gobridge . . . here we have Avery lost in a waking dream that with no way out—no end in sight. He’s accompanied in the dream by his girlfriend, his psychiatrist sand a janitor. It’s described as “both darkly comic and slightly terrifying.”

The promo text goes on to state: “You’ll never look at an ice scraper of a Zippo lighter the same way again!” Okay, honestly, I look at a Zippo and an ice scraper different EVERY time, so that's not saying much. But will this piece have the same resonance as God Bridge? It’s “loosely,” based on a poem by Rupert Brooke, the play sounds like it comes from the same margins of the human psyche as Wilson’s last Youngblood feature. The plot speaks to a kind of psychological longing—the journey here sounds every bit as psychological as that undertaken by the Wilson’s under-the-bridge protagonists. Ice scrapers. A lighter. A psychiatrist. A janitotor. Mythic fragments of the every day wash onstage Late this month.

Youngblood Theatre’sDrive Me To Arson runs July 22nd-31st at UWM”s basement studio theatre on Kenwood. The show runs at the Minnesota Fringe Festival August 5th – 12th.

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