Theater last night, Bush. Well, more than theater really. Call it Uebertheater. It was drama. It was grand opera. It was grand guignol. It was circus. It was Renaissance tragedy. It was farce. It was modern dance and classical ballet. It was American musical. It was pop/rock/jazz concert. It was mime and tableau vivant and performance art. It was, as the technical term has it, a Gesamtkunstwerk (an altogether art work, for non-German speakers.)
It was "The Black Rider and the Casting of the Magic Bullets."
"The Black Rider" is a musical and theatrical extravaganza resulting from the collaboration of the late writer, William S. Burroughs, artist/designer Robert Wilson, and song writer and gravel-voiced growler Tom Waits. Based on the medieval German legend of man's pact with the devil, "The Black Rider" provides an unmatched evening of sheer brilliant entertainment.
It's a non-stop source of visual treats and delightful surprises. It's costume party, a feast of sometimes amusing, sometimes awesome sets, of puns and proverbs, high wit and cliche. It's about languiage, and art, and music; about stories and story-telling; about the dark side of human existence, and the light. It's sad-funny and funny-sad. Music ranges from sweet mock lyrical to operatic aria to sheer bloody cacophony, degenerating often into sequences of weird, primitive sounds that speak to the ear from some deep and ancient memory of animal existence. There's jazz and blues and pop song, African rhythm and folk music... It seems sometimes that the production wants to leave no medium and no artistic convention unturned on its head. It's radically subversive, a play on color, movement, sound and shape; a play on expectations and traditions; a play on play.
And yet, and yet, and yet... In all this brilliance, there was something missing for me, and I'm not sure what it is. Call it heart. With all the irony, paradox and surprise, and with all the clever, complex multiple references there was a heady quality to the fun that left me with this vague dissatisfaction--the kind of feeling you have after indulging scrumptiously in an over-rich dessert: that the whole production was, after all, no more than a confection. Brilliantly concocted, but yes, a confection. And why not, I suppose? We all have a need for it. I was grinning with the pleasure of it most of the way through, and laughing aloud more often than I've done for quite a while. Why not? Who could ask, in the words of one memorable song from years ago, for anything more?