I usually enjoy “meta” devices in movies, books and plays and while “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” doesn’t approach “Adaptation” or “[title of show]” level cleverness, it was certainly a fun introduction to the “meta” construct for kids. The danger with any work of this kind, of course, is that it struggles to be about anything except itself. Even with that limitation, “Stinky” was an entertaining romp and an hour of ridiculous was welcome after the run of shows I’ve been to lately (“August,” “Next Fall,” “Sweeney Todd.”)
The production featured two actresses who I always enjoy on stage, Maggie Roop and Alison Gilman; an actor who is quickly becoming a favorite, Todd Patterson; and a gang of people I’d never seen before but hope to see again. Deejay Gray and Mauricio Marces engaged the audience with many comic pratfalls, their running about before the show started delighting the kids. Though making her Theatre IV debut, Betzi Hekman fit in to the antics well, making quite a fetching Frog Princess. Statuesque and versatile in her protrayals, Sarah Roquemore seems like someone out of TV sitcom to me: I just expected her to be funny as soon as she walked on stage and she didn’t disappoint. I’m hoping she’ll be gracing more Richmond stages in the future.
The costumes by Elizabeth Weiss Hopper were particularly spectacular for this production; so good that I was hoping (probably in vain) the wee ones in the audience were appreciating the level of artistry they were being exposed to. The only somewhat odd thing was that the show was a musical but I didn’t notice any specific musical credits given. I guess all the music was canned and/or public domain? Anyway, though I expect some kids – and even a few adults – were a little befuddled by the “meta” material, I thought it was a peppy little diversion and a great way to spend an hour at the theater.
I keep trying to get around to writing down my thoughts about “Next Fall” but time and work keep conspiring against me. I also continue to be distracted by the whole Michael Daisey thing. Both CNN and EW have done well-considered and literate commentary on the whole thing. I’ve read these eagerly, hoping someone will encapsolate eloquently the reason the whole thing ticks me off so much. The CNN piece gets close in talking about how blasé many students are about this kind of thing. I guess I’m old fashioned but I still believe in something at least close to objective truth. And I can’t help but see this kind of distortion of the truth as just another flavor of the distortion political ranters and ravers spew, the kind of people who call Obama a “socialist” or who deny the Holocaust. Sure, Daisey was trying to do good, but he was also trying to forward his career. And there is something slimily political about his continual inability to take responsibility for out-and-out lying.
Perhaps the most concise summary of what I think of Daisey is reflected in this, from the EW piece: “He's like a cop who plants evidence on someone he believes in his heart to be guilty. Maybe the suspect is guilty, but now it's harder to know. And Daisey's arrogance in the glare of getting caught makes it increasingly difficult to empathize with him.”