Hegel, Schlegel, and bagel

My Head Was a Sledgehammer

By Richard Foreman
Directed by Edward Einhorn
Untitled Theater Company #61
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Unlike Joe Orton at his best, Richard Foreman uses non sequitur as a brain-numbing needle to stop thought in its tracks. Sledgehammer is full of oblique references to metaphysical or linguistic topics that suggest a philosophical dimension not borne out in full. (``I make up rhymes. The technique is, they don't rhyme.'' Ho-hum.)

In what looked like a combination alchemist's lab, schoolroom, and magician's atelier, the crazed Dr. Majestico (Rufus Collins), in lab coat and skullcap, pondered (in heavily Teutonic English) the linguistic and philosophical limits of his world. Given that they are defined by such conundra as quoted above, it is an arid place indeed. But it was soon inhabited by a helpmeet, a beautiful assistant (Julia Martin, in a clever costume by Young Kim), conjured into existence in Dr. Majestico's magic cabinet.

Their dialog is a deranged mixture of Wittgenstein, Sartre, and Kurt Goedel (of Goedel, Escher, Bach fame).

It is puzzling to see a Foreman play done outside his own company, the Ontological-Hysteric Company, since (it is said) he uses his own scripts less as blueprints than as sketches of what he wants in production. So to ``produce'' a Foreman play you would have to be Foreman himself, since Foreman's direction is a crucial component of the event, or so the theory goes. Perhaps another visit by oobr to the Ontological-Hysteric is in order, to check out Foreman's work on his home ground. (The last visit was as promising as this one. Why did Foreman win a MacArthur ``genius'' award?)

Collins and Martin were actually quite amusing and accomplished in their technique, which showed a physical control worthy of a circus or burlesque act. The highlight of the evening was Martin's disgorging a very long object that she must have swallowed before the evening began.

Another amusing sidelight was the ``magical fourth-dimensional glasses'' (paper cutouts with two holes for each eye, both too small for unobstructed viewing). True to a warning in the program, the play was stopped and the lights turned up to remind audience members to wear them.

These components -- of the circus and audience participation -- lightened an evening otherwise shadowed by donnish humor and philosophical obscurity.

(Sound, John Hudak; lighting, Randy Glickman.)

Box Score:
Writing 0
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 John Chatterton

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