by Julie Congress · May 8, 2014
SO. MUCH. FUN! Buran Theatre’s Magic Bullets – a bizarre, hysterically funny, powerful, oddly beautiful look at mental and physical illness – is an expertly executed symphony of theatrical weirdness. It is also a tremendous joy – and privilege! – to see a company working together in such vibrant harmony.
As there is no linear plot to speak of, doing justice to Adam R. Burnett’s script is difficult – but hopefully that’s all the more reason for you to see it! Let’s say that it’s a brilliant mélange of provocative, deconstructive, idiot savant and/or just plain funny lines/ideas that create a tapestry of the imagination of a mentally/physically ill individual(s). This quote from Nietzche is in the program and helpful in setting the scene:
“Think about illness! – To calm the imagination of the invalid, so that at least he should not, as hitherto, have to suffer more from thinking about his illness than from the illness itself – that, I think, would be something! It would be a great deal!”
Magic Bullets feels very much like an insane asylum on the guard’s day off. It is attacked with tremendous energy and playfulness by a tremendous ensemble cast, several of whom also create a lively onstage band. Directors Burnett and performer Jud Knudsen meld expressive movement, full-ensemble moments, and more intimate monologues or two person vignettes, with seamless grace, constantly surprising and stimulating us.
I’m currently reading Michael Gelb’s Body Learning about the Alexander Technique, which asserts, “that the human organism always functions as a whole.” I can’t help but think of Magic Bullets as the organism and each of the theatrical components – the individual actors, the music, the lighting, the set, the costumes, the writing – as body parts intricately, inextricably, moving and changing in perfect conjunction (though not necessarily synchronicity) with one another. When all of the actors sit on three carpeted steps and each execute individual tics - coughs, shudders, darting eyes - they are intrinsically tied together in a score of gesture and sound. It becomes difficult to tell if all the actors depict one mind or a hundred, and we delve throughout the spectrum.
The second part of Gelb’s quote states that the organism “can only be changed fundamentally as a whole.” This too resonates with the universal shifts in mood that occur within Magic Bullets. Again, every theatrical element moves together, a single organism gliding dynamically, choreographically through space and then suddenly…juice! Juice! Juice! Juice! Juice! And everybody’s happy and manic and blending brightly colored juices and voraciously, messily, devouring and drenching themselves in juice! Emotions become completely infectious between the characters and are ever-shifting, often in unexpected directions.
I have never seen anything quite like Magic Bullets. And I think what makes itso unexpected is how FUN every moment is, no matter how serious the idea it is pointing to is. The result is that we listen fully because it is so utterly engaging and surprising. How rare it is to be able to tune out all of the other clutter in your head - the constant stream of thoughts – and just focus on something outside of yourself. It’s a gift I highly recommend you take advantage of.