Saturday, February 28, 2009

TELEPHONE by Ariana Reines 

The other night I saw the best play of my life (SO FAR!): TELEPHONE, by poet Ariana Reines at the Cherry Lane Theater in NY. It makes me repeat myself when I say POETS ARE MY FAVORITE PLAYWRIGHTS!

Reines was inspired by Avital Ronell's The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech, a book I'm excited to read now. I'm a fan of Ronell's introduction to the 2004 reprint of SCUM MANIFESTO by Valerie Solanas. Ronell's sometimes coy language is always spot-on when placing Solanas in the history of the "American dead-end-one-warrior-revolution": She was one lonely lady in the heady glamour days of Candy Darling and Viva, way before the guerilla girls, Lesbian Avengers, Queer Nation, et al. and routine outings got going.

Reines's character Miss St. (played brilliantly by Birgit Huppuch), hits a nerve that still tingles when I think about it. In fact the entire 2nd Act leaves one in a semi post traumatic stress state, and I mean to say this with only the best of intentions. The entire 2nd Act is a monologue unlike ANY monologue I've ever encountered before. It's a PSYCHIC MELTDOWN, and a monologue ANY young actor serious about giving herself the most challenging possible test should consider. REINES RAISES THE BAR!

As we know poets SEE and experience the page in ways very different from other writers, at least I mean to say poets who WANT to explore the page WILL do so. Ariana cuts open that channel for us in the 2nd Act, and Birgit Huppuch gives us a performance of break-neck speed and beauty with SUDDEN moments of nerve-wracking utter quite we can't forget. HOW did she memorize THAT text!? I'm in awe!

In the 1st Act the character of Watson (played by Matthew Dellapina) was a spiritual sensualist I felt connected to. At one point I was sitting in the front row with my friend Maria Mirabal when he said the most beautiful line, a line I know and I mean I KNOW and have inhabited in this world, AND, upon saying it spit came out through his teeth and lips and one drop landed RIGHT in the middle of my forehead! It was as if that bullet of spit flipped a switch because my jaw OPENED my mouth wide. What a marvelous experience with an actor's spit, and a poet-playwright's genius. Watson said: Once the morning glories spoke to me in their own language, and it WAS intelligible to me!

Before the play started Maria and I were having a smoke on a bench in front of the theater when Maria whispered, "Look, it's Lily Taylor!" All I saw was the back of her head, but it certainly looked like the back of her head. FULL CIRCLE we come, as no one could have played Valerie Solanas as well Lily Taylor did in I SHOT ANDY WARHOL! And I'm sure she was digging TELEPHONE with the rest of us that night! It was exciting to hear people talking about the play as we filed out onto the streets as EVERYONE was shaken, surprised, and ready to tell everyone they know that they should go see it!

TELEPHONE is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite plays now! And I also highly recommend Reine's books of poetry, THE COW, and most recently COEUR DE LION.

"It was good to slap
Your face, and to admit
That your asshole
Made me nervous."
--Ariana Reines, from COEUR DE LION


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