Richard Foreman’s Truly Brilliant Idiot

11/04/2009 12:50 PM |

There is also an incredibly clear and booming sound system, which Foreman utilizes in disquieting ways, repeating recorded screams and crashes over and over again, as well as incorporating raucous thumping techno interludes as the Savant dances seductively (I never knew Dafoe could high kick like that), blindfolded, with pillows over his ears before us. Couple this aural assault with the ten or so mega-watt halogen lamps overhead, that can be trained on the audience at a moment’s notice in a temperature-raising flood of light, and it’s clear that Foreman wants to make you sweat (literally) in your seat and isn't satisfied with relying on stirring your emotions to do so. It made me want a blindfold and pillows of my own.

This is not to say that Foreman's play doesn’t stir a multitude of emotions in the viewer, but the material is haphazard, vague and hard to follow, if it’s meant to truly be followed at all, with the players’ lines purposefully diluting at times into murmurs and mumbles before they can finish a thought. The autistic nature of the Savant gets a little annoying at times, but I suppose this is another trope aimed at lowering the comfort level of the people watching. Again the actors make the watching bearable, as it becomes less and less important to hear what they’re saying as opposed to watching how they say it. There is no way to comment on the plot, or the device that moves the audience from point A to point B: There is none, because there is no A or B.

This is nothing new with this type of theater, but Foreman addresses the lack of a linear structure directly with a superbly refreshing and acidic self-parody in the form of a disembodied voice (sounding strangely like a demonic Hitchcock with a mouth full of marbles after a night of drinking) stating very early in the play that the players should not actually try to move this play foreword in any way, and rather just let it wallow in self-proclaimed failure as a dramatic piece. This is the same voice that glacially lists every single physical object that the audience will see during the course of the performance as the lights go down (I counted roughly 32 items after I realized what was happening), and the voice that frequently breaks in to give “A Message to the performers,” or counts the beats of silence (which aren't actually silence anymore then, are they?).

Foreman, it seems, wants us to know that he is not trying to put something past us, or pass something off as real when it is not, and this idea only serves to make the reactions of the audience all the more interesting. I noticed two walkouts on the night I saw the show, but I shook my head in bewilderment as to why. Yes, I was very uncomfortable, and hot, and my chair was too small, but I would have sat there with my feet in a bucket of ice water (that might have been nice, actually, after the lamps) to watch Dafoe and the other players in action.