Java’s back from a foray into experimental theatre somewhere in the recesses of the City of the Fallen Angels – on Santa Monica Boulevard to be precise. As he described it:
A little ol hole-in-da-wall place, maaan. No one would even begin to guess dere be som heavy sheet going down dere. I be trippin wit da Sandman an Chloe, who be turnin us onto dis place where she be doin her thang in som actin workshop. So we go in and dere be aroun fifty folk in dat audience. Dis place be dark and dere be some classical music goin an dat sweet smell of incense mix with som odder pungen aroma make it seem like our kinda place. Good vibes and dat air of spectashun be happenin, so we settle down in our seats an wait.
Pretty soon da house lights go off an at da same time dat music change to a John Cage-like waay-out piece of ‘music’ which last for maybe five minutes. I be tinkin dat dis be for getting dat audience into da mood for what be comin up, den dat curtain go up to reveal a stage dat be bare – cep for a big ol copper bathtub jus a bit left of center stage an a chair wit a towel draped over da back of it, backstage an to da right of center. Da stage lights be diffuse, wit two watery spots on dat tub an dat chair. Da music has stopped by now, but it ain’t really stopped as Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man is playin – only dose into dat avant-garde sheet know dat ol Alphonse be a pretty far out cat and dis composition, done in da 1890s or derebouts, be consistin only of nine blank measures. So fo all intents an purposes we be watchin dis stage in ‘silence’.
Den, a few minutes (or maybe more) later – some ackshun: A head slowly emerge from dat tub an veerrry slooww like, dis man get up till he be standin in de tub. He be stark-starin nekid, but in his right hand he be carryin a big ol frog. Musta bin plastic or rubber – a big green ting dat be glintin in dat weak spotlight. Dis man climb outta dat tub in slo-mo an he walk toward dat chair. Now dose stage lights be comin up reeeal slow like an we see anodder bod emerge from dat tub. Dis time it be an ol man, follow close by a nymphet who be holdin onto his hand. Da ol guy be wearin a cravat roun his neck and da nymphet have a jewelled belt roun her waist. Dey also get out in slo-mo and walk toward dat chair, now occupied by da first dude. No sooner dey get close to dat chair anodder one emerge from dat tub – a great big black dude wearin only his socks. Now dis be gettin fascinatin – all dis goin down to Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, so we don be hearin nuttin. Da ol man an dat nymphet dey sit on dat first guy’s lap and dat brodder get behin dem an embrace da tree on dat chair. In da meantime a bunch of odder folk be getting out of dat tub – one at a time, all in slo-mo, all stark-starin cep fo one article somewhere on dere bods. I be countin seventeen in all – all ages, shapes an sizes (dere was even a midget an a guy dat musta bin seven an a half feet tall). Dey all end up at dat chair embracin and getting on each odder until it be one mass of writhin bods, maan. Now Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man is done an dis odder piece of music com on. Don know what it was, but it be a series of atonal chords wit sounds of nature – like birdsong, water an sheet like dat comin on between dose chords. Now dose bods stop movin, but dey be trobbin at a steady rhydem – an damn if dat image don look like a big ol heart trobbin away in dat diffuse amber light. Blackout an silence.
An dat audience went ape-sheet – an us too.
De nex two acts be equally weird, but it take too long to describe maan, so I be savin it for anodder time. Da last piece tho be anodder trippy one. Dis time da cast bring out dere chairs to dat stage an line em up so dat even tho dere be aroun twenty in dat cast, da way dey be doin dat rrangement be creatin an illushun of a whole lot more. So dey sit dere asses down – blackout on stage an dose house lights com on. Da music be more John Cage – ‘Music for Changes’, a composishun for solo piano ol John be basin on the influence da I Ching (yo be knowin dat Chinese Book of Changes, right?) had on Cage – a pretty far out dude in his own rite. So dere we be – roles reverse, dose players be playin da audience an us folk be in da posishun of being da players. Dere be two strait lookin folk who maybe had enough of dis waaay-out sheeet dat be playin wit dere heads – dey stan up an get ready to take off – an dat stage erupt into applause. Dose two get so fuckin surprise, dey quickly sat dere asses down again. Den one dude stand up an do a Marlon Brando bit from ‘On da Waterfront’, but before he could finish he get tomatoes an sheet trown at him from dat stage, boos and hisses an sheet too, so he quickly sit his butt down. Da audience now start to enjoy dis sheet an we be seein some of dem tryin to get dere partners to participate, an gradually dere be a whole lot of ackshun in dat audience – wit dose players on stage bein all eyes on da happenins. An so it went, wit some interestin shheet comin outta it until dose house lights go off an we be sittin in da pitch black dark wit dis weired-ass music – had to be Cage or Satie – goin down. An we sat, like everyone else. Time be passin an damn if it weren’t nearly an hour later when folk start to leave da place. Da players had long gone home, I guess.
An dat, ma maaan, be Java’s inishul foray into dat Teatre of da Abstruse, an I be tankin Chloe for takin da Sandman and me along. Some reeealy wired-ass shheet, but we be digging it.
It must have been absorbing, to say the least, as Java doesn’t have much patience for the extreme abstract – be it painting, sculpture, music or theatre – but the way he got into this experience left me in no doubt that he was enthralled. John Cage leaves me pretty cold at the best of times, as does Eric Satie, but given the right ambience, who knows how I’ll feel. Java’s back to his rolling ritual and has got Alphonse Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man going on the machine.
It’s weird how ‘silence’ means different things to different folk, isn’t it?