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Theatre Review: AVLT’s bobrauschenbergamerica, an energy filled ride

Lisa Much Lisa Much Theatre Review: AVLT’s bobrauschenbergamerica, an energy filled rideDrew Eberly as Allen in Available Light Theatre's bobrauschenbergamerica. Photo by Matt Slaybaugh.
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Drew Eberly as Allen in Available Light Theatre's bobrauschenbergamerica. Photo by Matt Slaybaugh.

I will be honest; I’ve struggled with writing this review for some time. After watching Available Light Theatre’s production of Charles L. Mee’s bobrauschenbergamerica, I truly did not know what to say. I don’t want to pretend to be smart to write this and I certainly do not wish to act as though I understood the show. I did, however, feel something. With that in mind, this is my take on bobrauschenbergamerica.

The ten person ensemble truly creates the performance as a unit. All give sublime performances, full of emotion and absolute control. Their energy just astounds. Each character is so simple and honest in the most complex ways, and it truly is a refreshing piece of theater. Due to the cohesive nature of the cast, pulling individual performers out seems next to impossible, but Ben Sostrom’s opening monologue as Becker, the derelict, sets a powerful tone. Acacia Leigh Duncan’s soulful, searching speeches as Susan also brings a thoughtful, bleeding honesty.

The audience learns little about Robert Rauschenberg’s life, but sees a glimpse of his art as well as his views. In a brilliant monologue, Allen, played by Drew Eberly, muses, “all any human being can ever observe is the past. You never see the present.” This happens while other actors perform innocuous actions in near slow-motion giving this feeling of simultaneous connectedness and universal disconnect. All we tend to see or feel directly affects us. In a separate moment, which comes as one of the most beautiful scene of self-awareness I’ve ever seen on a stage, Carl (Keith Lamar Nolen) states, “We don’t often get to do a show like this, where we can just put on whatever we like.” This monologue features countless hopeful words, and the whole show suddenly loses its confusion and becomes a wondrous ride.

Director Eleni Papaleonardos and the design team creates a visual masterpiece. Papaleonardos paints some of the finest stage pictures in Columbus. Musical director Pam Welsh-Huggins rings in tight vocals and harmonies, while Duncan leads lovely choreography. Dave Wallingford’s sound and Kat Barnes’ costumes create a world reminiscent of Americana, yet feels so contemporary. It’s a striking feel of no-time and all-time. Jarod Wilson designs some moody and almost too dark lighting. Matt Slaybaugh creates some fine projections, again, a refreshing touch.

Ian Short, Amy Rittberger, Adam Humphrey, Drew Eberly, Weston Oberg, Acacia Dunca, and Keith Nolan (l-r) in Available Light Theatre's bobrauschenbergamerica by Charles L. Mee. Photo by Matt Slaybaugh.

This show features dance, songs, jokes, poetry, love, disgust, anger, apathy—basically it covers the buffet of life. Also, it includes lots of chickens. Though not the easiest show to digest, one leaves bobrauschenbergamerica ruminating over the characters, the emotions, and the kernels of truth evident in the available vignettes.

bobrauschenbergamerica runs until September 21, at Studio Two in the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 pm; Sun. at 2 pm. Talk backs occur after every Thursday and Friday performance. Pay what you want. More information can be found online at www.avltheatre.com.

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