by Mitchell Conway · July 7, 2015
Joshua David Robinson, Stacey Karen Robinson | Eileen Meny
Here are a few fizzles on Hand Foot Fizzle Face at JACK from the company Piehole:
Beckett thoughts––sometimes non-thoughts, maybe half-thoughts or pre-thoughts, then a lucid one strikes through. All do?
Where is my body? I’m in a chair. Bodily reminders go along with reminders of myself and my thoughts. Who am I when I’m staring at a screen? My body is immobile: I stare.
Performers wore sweatpants. No attention spans past the immediate, possibly no past. Eyes diagonal up-right, flit center on a thought, then down-right to listen maybe; all behind a grey towel in terror.
In Hand Foot Fizzle Face, characters are fizzles and segments are fizzles. A fizzle character is like a kind of clown (Beckett clown). Sometimes Fizzles control technology and sometimes technology controls Fizzles.
Through parts of this thoroughly enjoyable performance I’d say I was entranced. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Beckett in the first place, but this original and timely (even urgent) rendering brought me in deep. I was loudly laughing through a lot of the show; I think I was reacting to something like its rhythm of confusion. I’m pretty sure I cried at some point.
The entire perimeter of the space, including the entryway, was covered in tin foil.
Does that mean no signals enter? Communication is of what sort then? We enter around the bend like through a portal, but then the stage is ultra-mundane, with scattered technology, a blue mat, and some furniture (black off-putting office chairs and a big comfy arm chair among them).
Computer-spoken narration was hilarious throughout and as exposition quite useful, supplying a brief explanatory framework for the piece. Then it got into more and more minute details such as idiosyncrasies of the original book design.
It was eerily comforting to have the source of comfort in a crazy world be a robotic voice’s framing narration.
Fizzles played a lot with black and white printed body parts. A hanging body part file cabinet stageright made me really nervous. Jeff Wood put the camera in like revealing a dirty secret. Later he tried to poke through a paper body picture, but ended up ripping the whole thing. Then he poured water on it and poked a hole through.
When “[PAGE]” displayed on the projector a loud beep would release the scene and there would be some time with minimal “action” and no text. Then the text was at a full sprint again. With the captivating tension in Stacey Karen Robinson’s eyes as their gaze shifted with each speaker along with her elegant control of the language, I recall some of her lines feeling like they bit me.
Alexandra Panzer came from the audience to a microphone. The robot narrator introduced her and that she was not a Fizzle. She had all the recognizable affectations of human behavior and it felt different. Alexandra was surrounded by Fizzles seemingly attempting to speak along with her without knowing what she would say, resulting in a faint mumble-echo. She spoke into the microphone, then her voice cut out, but her mouth didn’t move. Then she mouthed the words her pre-recorded voice said (I think?). Then she sang together with herself and spoke along with herself. I could not tell which was recorded and which was live. It was totally disorienting and beautiful and haunting. Fizzles joined in the tune.
For the penultimate fizzle, Lea Bertucci created a layered, looped space-scape while the camera swooped across a crumb and sauce covered table and plate; the focus drifted back and forth from blur to clarity. This was a tour of our universe. We watched the screen. The camera focused on the screen it was playing onto and created a feedback loop. Just like me, looking at an image of my self image of my self and onward until I think I’m real and I am. The onstage printer turns on and stops all action to print body part pictures. It remembered something.
Director Tara Ahmadinejad demonstrated an impeccable control of rhythm throughout the piece, executed by a fantastic team of actors. Whether as a contemplation of how humans will relate to our bodies and selves as technology continues to estrange us, or whatever you choose to project onto this superb work from Piehole, this thoughtful work is an indication they are a company to keep a look out for.
A combination of laughing at myself and fear of myself as a part of the technologically mediated world was my experience of Hand Foot Fizzle Face. Emily Jon Mitchell stays in her armchair most of the show, staring off. During her epic final monologue, just as Wood approached her, she screamed out “no, not the face!” and turned the camera away.