"An amazing journey" "Stunning" "Beautiful" "A serious comedy about life; wonderful!" "Funny, terrifying, and brutally honest" "Grabs a hold of you & doesn't let you go" "Thank you Mark for sharing your life, art and talent and reminding me to be thankful for my happiness and for just being alive."
"Bravo!" "A gift"
"This isn't theatre. This is art." "It's astounding. Exhausting. Intensely intimate, revelatory. Yet it speaks volumes to universal experience. A perfect dance between the male/female characters, life's yin/yang. The final searing image is so potent, it illustrates the tightrope of life's overriding dilemma in one simple, magical dramatic moment. Whole plays have been written about that moment and not conveyed it so effectively. I couldn't talk afterwards, just needed to go off quietly to absorb the experience." "It is one of the deepest experiences of living in the now that I have encountered. I cannot accurately describe the experience, I can only wholeheartedly recommend it."
These are a sample of the flood of comments from critics and our audiences.
Before anything else, I must say “Heaven, how I miss the Deep Ellum Theater Garagee."
I like and admire Mark-Brian Sonna and I generally like his work. I’m not going to go fishing for critical things to say just to try to sound credible. That always backfires. I will tell you that I got an email this week saying “You have to see this play. I ran home and hugged everyone in the house” and later talked with someone that thinks their friend who saw it now needs treatment for depression. MBS can be pretty polarizing, I guess.
First of all, don’t go looking for stock theater. It’s not here. This is solo performance refined and directed with surprising clarity by regular MBS Productions collaborator Alejandro de la Costa but with obvious influence of production advisor Charles Ballinger. Zounds! Beautiful work. Also, don’t come looking for a plotline or a synopsis. And though Carol Anne Gordon is equally billed as “Woman” and is invariably brilliant, this is a one man show and she is a foil, a set piece with occasional blocking and lines – and absolutely indispensable as such. She sprays air freshener and argues in Spanish as a housekeeper and is totally nonplussed as a mother hearing confessions her son thinks will likely kill her. Perfect.
This is a one man show with a chair, a mirror, a couple pair of shoes, a noose and a knife that we hear a lot about but pray like crazy we never actually see. It’s autobiographical, hence the performance art categorization I would place upon it, but by no means self indulgent. It does a fine job of presenting a personal experience as a universal one with a surprising humility that at once highlights and contradicts the idea of a single person talking for over an hour.
A word about performance art and experimental theater: Believe it or not, Dallas has a pretty reasonable pedigree going back to Matt Posey and all the talent that the Deep Ellum Theater Garage attracted and spawned: late musician/shaman Jerry Hunt, more recent anomaly of cross-over media Dalton James and the ever-surprising Fred Curchak. It was in the Theater Garage heyday that this piece was born and given form. It’s updated to include the Man’s more recent tribulations and joys, a good choice that seasons the work considerably.
“So what’s it about?” It’s about 75 minutes - I should just leave it at that.
Based roughly on separate but significant events in Man’s life including being born in America, a childhood in Mexico, schooled in the U.S. and growing up to become an artist, the piece would sound like a “how I got here” lecture. The separate but comfortably transitioned vignettes carry a few common threads, emphasized with motif-like word play that each phase of Man’s life reinterprets -- a favorite device of mine, I confess. There is a small collection of phrases that resurface surprisingly and reassuringly give some effective semblance of form to an otherwise strophic stream of consciousness work. Of these, my favorite and one most pointedly manifested in the piece’s climactic end, is the concept of being “close to death” first, in the culture of Mexico that Sonna so adores, obsessed with ancestry and respectful mocking of mortality. Then with various important persons he loses to death along the years and then finally with some harrowing experiences of his own that finally drive home to Man the furtive and temporal nature of life.
What it is about is that tiny fissure between life and whatever is not life and what we choose to feel that minuscule gap is. Joy? Terror? Hope? Disappointment? Friends?
Yes I recommend the show. It’s a “glass half full / half empty” conundrum in that it will reinforce your general mood. I think if you are prone to pessimism, you should just rent Die Hard 4, but if you find yourself hopeful at the worst of times and keep seeing that darned silver lining, you’ll go skipping gleefully afterwards.
After all, it is just a show about a chair, a mirror, a couple pair of shoes and a noose. Or maybe it’s just about a mirror.
Alexandra Bonifield, Independent Arts Writer, July 12, 2008
It's astounding. Exhausting. Intensely intimate, revelatory. Yet it speaks volumes to universal experience. A perfect dance between the male/female characters, life's yin/yang. The final searing image is so potent, it illustrates the tightrope of life's overriding dilemma in one simple, magical dramatic moment. Whole plays have been written about that moment and not conveyed it so effectively. I couldn't talk afterwards, just needed to go off quietly to absorb the experience.