In Theater Reverb's Bonne Nuit Poo Poo, Max (Christopher Thomas Gilkey) and Maxi (Kristin Arnesen) draw us immediately into their wacky, post-apocalyptic world in which only three characters exist. It includes Max, Maxi and a fantastically understated, mute DJ (Radoslaw Konopka) who sits stage right and provides them with sound effects as they bark orders to him. These three take us from a nutty motorbike ride across an arid earth, to a talk show studio where they interview an audience member, to a digitized dream world involving a woeful, wandering sperm, and then back to the motorbikes again. Max and Maxi go zooming along the desert road as it unfolds behind them on a projection screen. Throughout all of this the performers are hilarious and committed and we, the audience, would go anywhere with them. They have us completely. Wow! What an opening!
It takes captivating performers and balls-to-the-wall ideas, executed with precision and guts to grab an audience as these three do. For the first 15 minutes I felt thankful for such highly energized, innovative performers. I sat perched on my seat as they whipped up a mad, sci-fi world and got us psyched for the crazy ride they were promising to take us on. All aboard!
But then something happened.
Or rather, nothing happened.
Somewhere in the middle of the show I found myself sitting back in my chair and trying really hard to stay on board. Somewhere between the ZANG! BAM! BOOM! of an opening and the abysmal strip tease/garbage fest/dance party of an ending something went wrong. I lost faith in the characters and I lost interest in anything they were doing. The caboose fell off their train but audience or no audience, Max and Maxi kept charging ahead having what looked like a great time…for them.
This is a skilled group of performers with fantastic instincts. In this production though they fail to capitalize on any of the brilliant material they generate at the beginning. Instead of following through to any sort of denouement the characters and ideas just fizzle out into what feels like one long inside joke. The creators draw on myriad sources of inspiration from pop culture. Perhaps they were inspired by so many different ideas that they lost focus. In the end none of the ideas fused together nor did any single idea fully blossom.
(Bonne Nuit Poo Poo plays at UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through March 6, 2010. Performances are March 6th at 2:30pm. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased at smarttix.com. For more festival information visit frigidnewyork.info.)