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Damn right we live in a dangerous society. Who would want it otherwise?
-- enigma

Beat Box

by Mr. Bad

2000-06-26 16:25:18

Mister Bad reviews the SF-local "raparetta" called "Beat Box."

This is a review of the play "Beat Box" which is currently playing at the Last Day Saloon in San Francisco. I went and saw the first run featuring pigdogger Rich, and I figgered I'd repost the review so folks could check it out. There's been a lot of changes (like that they wrote out Rich's character) and the run is near it's end. The final performance is tomorrow, June 27. So go see it if you can. -- Mr. Bad

P.S. As far as I know, the hot blonde will be there.

Oye, vatos. I just got back from Rich's (kinda) new play, "Beatbox".

I think I already mentioned that I went and saw "Henry V" by the Shotgun Players in Berkeley, which was Rich's last play, and it was super-fantastic. Now, you don't get a chance to see something that good too often, and I was prepared for a let down this time. I wasn't, though. Let down, I mean. "Beatbox" was an _excellent_ production of a somewhat immature play.

I got to the theater (Noh Space, in the crazy theater area of the Inner Mission) about 15 til 7 and was surprised to find that the show was sold out. What the fuck? I thought this was indie theater, not "Showboat". Piss moan whine, "Sold out" my fat hairy white ass.

Anyways, I had to wait in a "bad people who didn't buy their tickets ahead of time" line in the hopes that somebody with will call tickets would not show up and I could have their seat. Fortunately, there was a lot to look at while I was waiting. For example, a drop-dead blonde in a see-through top and a gigantically-slitted black skirt walked up, told the door-watcher her name and slipped in. Yay! I live for shit like that.

The well-prepared David and Celtic A, who already had their tickets, arrived shortly later and kept me company telling me stories about their experiences trying to clip the hair clumps off their long-haired cat's butthole. Very entertaining. And as an extra bonus miracle, around 30 seconds to 7, a real cool guy in cord overalls and a little jazz beardlet sold me his spare ticket and I was _in_. (Thank you, cool Jazzbo guy, wherever you are!)

I was nervous sitting in the audience (with David and Celtic A) as the show started. First, Rich's name wasn't on the program, causing me to worry that I had been gulled by the unscrupulous Rich into paying 13 smacks for a play of unknown quality that didn't even have somebody I know in it. Fucking fuck!

Second, Beatbox is billed on the program as a "raparetta", which pretty much carries all the evil connotations of "self-serious rock opera" and "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo" all wrapped up into a single wince-inducing mediocrity pastry, doesn't it?

But it wasn't mediocre at all. It was over the TOP. Yeah, the whole thing was rapped. Yeah, there was a _lot_ of dancing. But it was extremely low-tech -- no disco lights, no spangled pink jumpsuits, and, strangely, no music. The entire "score" -- such as it was -- was human Beatbox rhythms.

Y'know, psh, puh-SHUH, pmp-pmp-puh-SHUH. Clickety wakka PSH. You know what I'm saying. That, and stomping, and slapping, and clapping and kicking. It sounds crazy but it was mind-blowingly cool.

The rest of the tone was just as earthy. There was practically no set to speak of -- some spraypainted leftover CRAP was propped up in a corner to give the idea of "alley", but that was about it. The costumes -- such as they were -- were just regular streetwear. It just felt pretty real.

The story revolved around a group of gutter kids called "alley cats" and how they lived, stabbing passersby and each other and generally being a bad scene all around. There were power struggles and of course the inevitable kid who "gets out" of the crusty shit life they had.

Rich's character*, "The Man", is an amoral force of nature that kinda weaves in and out of the kids' lives, incenting them to do the things they do. The term "deus ex machina" was invented for this character. Rich, of course, boomed the whole thing out like he was Falstaff, to great effect.

I have to say that the plot was confused at times and dragged at others. There were far too many soliloquys ("arias"?) gabbing about souls and hearts and desire for power, which neither explicated the characters nor moved the plot along. I had a lot of "OK, get ON with it" moments.

On the good side, the plot and the characters were good enough that I *wanted* to hear them develop more. So, the abstracty hearty-souly-lifey stuff couldn't have been that bad. The show's still in the development phases, so they may shake out some of these slow patches.

What made even the slow parts highly enjoyable was that the RAP was REALLY GOOD. It reminded me of nothing more than rapped-over hip-hop jazz a la Alphabet Soup -- gutteral and gutsy, literate and intelligent. The lyrics were great, the rhythms were unpredictable and solid. And constantly with whomping mouth beats and stamping and dancing and whatnot that rocked your seat. So it was _cool_.

Everything kind of came crashing to an end right when I didn't expect it (think "Reservoir Dogs"). The crowd was so amped they gave a standing ovation with in-beat applause. After a brief comments-and-criticism period (very good idea, for a project in process), we stumbled through the crowd to say hi to Rich and let him know we actually showed up.

And there he was, hugging the babe blonde I saw walking in! Fucking actors, man.

I would recommend this show highly. Unfortunately, tonight's run is the last performance "for a while". Fortunately, the two writers are gonna go back to and hack on the script for a while and bring the show out again, which can only be for the better. So keep an eye out** and CATCH IT next time it shows, d00ds. I mean it. Have I steered you wrong before?

P.S. I don't know what Rich does to get these cherry parts in good plays. I think it's his big boomer voice and generally nutcase "Weird Uncle Rich" attitude. But I do know I'm definitely gonna go see his next play, even if it's dinner theater "Guys and Dolls" in Concorde.

P.P.S. I almost forgot to mention that Rich did the whole play with two black eyes! He apparently got cold-cocked on the BART. He looks like a fucking ad for a battered women's hotline.

* Yeah, it turns out that there was a printing mistake in the programs. Whew.

** As if Rich isn't gonna bombard us with announcements weeks ahead of time.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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