It’s been almost a year since I last saw the show I was slated to see tonight…or rather LAST night. Sorry, I’ve been slacking off a bit for a night and a day, it happens (a lot). Hey, don’t judge, I’ve been very busy, with…with…okay, yes, my new MUNSTERS dvd, what of it? Did you know Herman competed for Transylvania in the 1841 Olympic games? Didn’t KNOW there were Olympic games in 1841, did you? Well, now you do, thanks to the educational power of television. Time wasted, indeed. I think you owe me an apology.
But still, there was a show the other day, and I’d seen it before! At UNDERCURRENTS, to be precise, last February (the third installment of the festival is less than a month away…got your tickets yet?). I dug it then, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it would be back in mainstage style…more room for dancin’! The show, as you may have heard, was Carmen Aguirre’s BLUE BOX, directed by Brian Quirt and put on by Nightswimming Theatre (with Neworld Theatre). Ms.Aguirre, whose memoir SOMETHING FIERCE won the Canada Reads competition last year, earning her national acclaim and an accusation of terrorism by a complete fucking idiot, is an almost unassuming bundle of power, who strides quietly onto a nearly barren stage at the start of her show, salsa music playing softly in the background. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was going to be a dull affair indeed. Until Carmen opens her mouth and tells the audience the REAL name of her show, and it’s off the the goddamn races.
BLUE **** tells a few stories in Carmen’s incredible life concurrently. A long-running tale of love and lust between Carmen and a mysterious, gorgeous stranger only ever identified as ‘Vision Man’ (on account of Carmen was introduced to his image in a visitation from her short, dead Granma, because that’s just what deceased Grandmothers DO) cuts intermittently back and forth with the story of Carmen’s earlier life as a 20 year old revolutionary in Argentina and Chile, working to overthrow the corrupt Pinochet dictatorship. The stories shift in and out of one another, harrowing tales of fearful escapes from neo-nazi thugs and secret police falling into frustrated accounts of a visit to LA with the increasingly emotionally distant Vision Man. Time gets a little wobbly as modern Carmen fights for what she thinks is the destined love of her life, and her past self puts her young life on the line for a dream of a free nation…two quests that will, ultimately, not exactly come off as she hoped. Along the way she has a close encounter with a Condor, works a phone sex line, dresses like a little old lady, smuggles documents across a few borders, and just generally risks her life for her country/love life.
Aguirre’s life, and her endless search for truth and love, is a fascinating one and as far as I’m concerned, a great damn show. Admittedly, a decidedly untheatrical piece of theatre…Carmen spends a great portion of the show simply standing and addressing the audience in a familiar, conversational tone, deceptive in its ease. And it CAN be a touch confusing following some of the sudden shifts in time and storyline, accompanied as they are by no tonal shifts, lighting changes, sound cues, wacky voices, nada. Just Carmen telling one story and then, suddenly, another. But on my second viewing, I’ve discovered a special trick to help you follow along through these changes…it’s called Paying Fucking Attention. In fact, you might want to apply this tip to OTHER aspects of your daily life, and see if it doesn’t work wonders! That’s free advice, yo.
Carmen is a fantastically engaging storyteller, more than a little because her stories are pretty goddamn awesome. And she’s blunt enough with words to make most of the house blush during her 90 minute performance, but never just to make the paint peel…it’s just how the lady talks, and it shows. Honesty is a MAJOR part of Carmen Aguirre’s genetic makeup (possibly a little witchcraft in there too, and a laser wit), and you get a refreshing does of it during this show. And yes, there IS a salsa dance break at about the hour mark, and while Carmen herself didn’t ask me to dance like she did at Undercurrents, that cute girl in the front row I had my eye on DID, so all was well with the world (I picked my second row aisle seats specifically for their danceability). If you’re a fan of passion, truth, love, sex, revolution, justice, or a swell night out at the theatre, then this might be the show for you. And now, to play me out, los Fabulosos Cadillacs.
Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)
PS: I know, I know, the modern Olympic games didn’t start until 1896. I know already! So don’t send angry letters or anything, it’s jut a fun little show about a family of Monsters and I was making a joke, all right? Don’t get all bent out of shape about it. Sheesh.
PPS: (Munsters Rule.)