(L-R) Michael Dove, Chelsey Christensen, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, and Cliff Williams in Forum Theatre’s Bobrauschenbergamerica (photo Melissa Blackall)
Chelsey Christensen, friend and new head of Marketing/PR for Forum Theatre, wanted me to make sure that I disclose that the performance I attended last night of Bobrauschenbergamerica was the opening night preview.
What she didn’t tell me was that she was also in the cast of the show.
Last night I walked into the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring and experienced quite the scene: a three-man woodwind/brass marching band practicing in one corner, a man dressed as a hobo clutching a small megaphone in another. A small crowd patiently waited for the house to open but there was something off. Among the normal looking audience members were individuals dressed in a style that was a blend of 50’s southern and gypsy. Chelsey spotted me and ran over and gave me a big hug. She wore a pinkish tie-dyed dress and offered me candy. She introduced herself as Phil’s girl and I just stared with a blank expression on my face until I realized she was a IN the show.
I walked to the concession stand, stepping out of the way of a roller-skating child with rainbow-striped socks. A cast member who called herself Susan struck up a conversation with me as I bought a bottle of water.
“You’re just in time for the party- have you eaten dinner yet,” she asked.
I replied that I had already ate but I will warn you that if you do attend this show hungry- you might be able to snag some free snacks but I’ll get to that later.
Charles Mee’s Bobrauschenbergamerica is based on the works of American artist Bob Rauschenberg. Even though the show can be enjoyed without knowing the late artist- I highly encourage you to at least Wikipedia the guy. It’ll help you get the most out of this hodgepodge of Americana.
The premise is simple: Rauschenberg was best known for creating “combine” art, where you create pieces not only with paint- but with newspapers, wood, and any ol’ household object. The props in the show feature notable pieces featured in Raucshenberg art including bathtubs, tires, and stuffed animals like goats and chickens. Rauchshenberg likes to throw stuff together and see what sticks- this show is a litteral interpretation of it. It’s a series of scenes, monologues, dances, and songs mashed-up together in such a way where it’s hard to discern where one scene starts and another begins.
It’s exactly what Bob would of done if he was a playwright instead of an artist.
The result if a crazy frenetic exposition where actors run across the space grabbing ladders, flags, and umbrellas.
Scenes include a woman known as “Bob’s Mom” narrating a slide show of Rauschenberg’s life- but the slides have been replaced with photos of his work; conversations about falling in and out of love; a man reciting chicken jokes while a man lies dying after being shot; and a woman rolling around in a giant Martini slip and slide.
The show is highly interactive, if find yourself in the front row expect to be handed props, asked to play whiffle ball, or become the receiver of a spare piece of corn or watermelon (free food!)
Bobrauschenbergamerica has highly entertaining points, like when Susan discusses the differences of how men and women love while eating an entire cake. Others are more abstract, like when a trash can is beaten into a metal pancake with a baseball bat. The show is full of Southern Americana and the feeling of celebrating life. While I cannot guarantee you will walk out understanding everything that occurs during the 103 minutes (no intermission), you will be entertained.
To borrow a line from the show:
“People will come to our museum and think: oh, that’s interesting or, oh, that’s stupid but they don’t really hold it against the show they just move on and look at something else and think oh that’s cool.”
And that’s ok, because we all see the world in different ways.
Tonight will be the last pay-what-you-can preview before the show formally opens, I encourage anyone that needs some last minute plans throw down a few bucks and take in this unique piece of performance art.
Running through June 25th
Playing at Round House Theatre Silver Spring
8641 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Thank you for a positive…review? However, I feel that critiquing a show while it is still in previews is not quite fair to the growth of the production. Maybe you’d be interested in coming back after opening. Just a thought. Thanks, Joe Brack
Common reviewer/theater etiquette is that reviews should not happen before opening. I’m not involved in the show, but I also have to wonder why you would “review” a preview performance. Perhaps next time previews should just be a side bar mention? It’s great that you want to support the show & for people to know about it – this is just the wrong format for that enthusiasm.
Give productions a chance to get on their feet & gel before you write about it in detail, as shows often change in previews. I’ve been in shows where the entire production concept has changed during preview week (“here’s your new costume… again.”). By writing in review format before opening, you’re doing both the theaters and your readers a disservice.
Thanks for the article, Patrick. It never ceases to amaze me how pompous some people can be about theatre “traditions.”
I would just be glad the show was getting some publicity.
It has nothing to do with “pompous” tradition. It has to do with the fact that a preview is, by definition, a work in progress. Theatres build in this time so they can continue to work out kinks, etc. By attending the show early & writing about it as a review, it denies the production a chance to grow. It would be akin to Tom Sietsema writing a restaurant review during the soft opening.
There are other ways to give pre-opening publicity than with a review. It’s done all the time.
Well said Social Chair.
I don’t believe this post was particularly out of line. The author did note that it was a preview performance and it gave his readers a nice idea of what an audience can expect if they were to see the the show. While I fully understand the convention of review etiquette and previews and agree with Social Chair and Mr. Brack on that front, the spirit of the review/article/write-up/whathaveyou is a positive one.
The last thing we want to do as artists is alienate and discourage people who have a readership and are providing a needed service by sharing their thoughts on events around town.
So please, Jeremy, do everyone a favor and keep the flaming to a minimum. If nothing else, it’ll keep the comments from getting derailed off topic.