Feature Article in MN Daily…
Posted February 19, 2013
By Joe Kellen
“Fallout Arts is getting the full aural treatment. Endless amounts of noise have been reverberating inside the space this week: the howl of orangutans, the scurrying stutter step of squirrels and a three-piece band named The Poor Nobody’s underscoring it all. Sound chaotic? That’s because it is, and it’s only a warmup in an average rehearsal of “Four Actors in Search of a Moment.”
The ensemble of Ghostbridge Theatre’s premiere of the surreal journey has taken on a dreamlike aesthetic in their exercises. This cast has done everything from rampaging around their rehearsal room in the roar of noisemakers and wild shouting to transforming their characters into untamed animals in order to discover the rhythm of the contemplative, absurd comedy.
“I want to see how many different ways I can come at the audience from an unexpected angle,” playwright and director Jeff Nichols said.
“Four Actors in Search of a Moment” follows four people stripped of their identities and sense of reality only to find themselves lost on a stage. Eventually, the group comes to realize that they’re actors playing characters through repeated moments of meta theater; there’s a character named Stage Directions, for example. The four pass the time with genre-hopping acting school-style improv scenes, including dramatic monologues about made-up car accidents and fighting a riotous “imaginary war” with each other. They can only entertain the façade for so long, though, because each individual slowly becomes aware that they’re living in a non-fictional reality. This leads to the complete dissolution of the world they created, leaving nothing but the real-life actors to present themselves characterless to the audience.
Adam Scarpello, one of the performers in the ensemble, has never had the experience of coming onstage as an unembellished version of himself.
“How am I a human being on a naked level? It’s hard because you’re trying to strip every single wall you’ve ever built up to tell an audience, ‘This is who I am right now,’” he said.
It’s an unorthodox task for actors, and this reflects what Ghostbridge seeks to produce in its future. Artistic director Nichols’ young company took its current form in 2011 when he moved back to the Twin Cities after attending graduate school in southern Illinois. His return with executive director Karen Elaine Massey marks the beginning of what the pair hopes will be a successful vehicle for producing new work and conjuring the experimental — something they feel the local theater scene could use more of.
“Theater is a very particular art form, so if you’re going to go, it should be giving you something different,” he said.
“Four Actors in Search of a Moment” caters to his sentiment well, combining a live score that builds toward circling, delirious soundscapes and sections of abstract theater dance. All in all, the play could easily overwhelm and detach an audience with its frenzied action. Eric Cohen, an actor in the production, insists that this is all a part of having a visceral experience with the work.
“The script is a little bit obtuse, but there’s more to it than that.”
Nichols agrees, stating that overstimulation has become normality in the information age. He asserts that the play isn’t just a response to the conventions and structure of theater; it’s a commentary about the characters people adopt when they go in public and an exploration of how possible it is to reach deep, intimate contact with another person.
“To me, the play is very humanistic — experiences have value when we find that moment we’re all in search of, this moment where we can really connect with someone.”