by Richard Hinojosa · August 23, 2015
Oliver Trager, Russell Jordan | Stephen Adler
The first time I heard a Lord Buckley monologue I thought I’d stumbled on a secret code that I could use to unlock new meanings inside everyday language. His “hipsemantic” sermons have this way of breaking stories and speeches down to their base components such as his exploded drawing of the Gettysburg Address. Lord Buckley was the godfather of all hipsters and inspired countless comedians, musicians and writers but his legacy goes largely unnoticed. Thankfully, Oliver Trager and Apocalypso Theatre Collective bring his brilliance to life so we can remind ourselves of his still relevant insights into some of our most closely held passions and beliefs.
The play is set on the night of Buckley’s death. His spirit goes to a mysterious radio station where he is compelled to tell his life story to a DJ named Orpheus. Between flashbacks to points in his life, Buckley performs a “best of” sampling of his work including The Nazz, Black Cross, Subconscious Mind, and Jonah and the Whale, to the amazement of his interviewer. Halfway through the radio interview ends and Orpheus and Buckley begin to talk more and more candidly about the nature of the truth. Buckley’s view of the transitory nature of the truth gets him into some hot water with god and he finds himself on trial for his soul. He redeems himself with the climactic ending of The Nazz and, I assume, goes peacefully into the light.
Playwright and Lord Buckley impersonator extraordinaire, Oliver Trager has penned (and performed) a fantastic journey through the life of one of the most outrageous characters in the history of performing arts. His knowledge of Buckley’s life and style is vast and penetrating. The dialogues with Orpheus and god grapple with questions about race, religion and sex that are poignant and resonate with current issues. He depicts Buckley as some sort of savior and even gets a little self-righteous but he keeps himself in check by admitting that being on trial for your soul is a little “corny”. Overall, I most enjoyed Trager’s performance of Lord Buckley’s signature work and I would have been content with a show that was just monologues and music.
Trager is backed by a pair of great musicians (John Kruth and Boris Kinberg) playing drums, flutes, guitar and sitars. They are the groove behind all the scatting and chatting. They bring the show to another level. Trager’s portrayal of Lord Buckley is astonishing. I was mesmerized by his mastery of Buckley’s cadence, hipster slang and aristocratic snobbery. He fully embodies the character from head to toe. Like one of those Mark Twain impersonators, you wonder if he’s like this all the time. Russell Jordan is solid as the doubting Orpheus and Ridley Parson shows the strength in his voice as god.
Dig Infinity is a one of a kind experience. The mix of live music and Buckley’s words transported me. It left me wanting more. The “stroll through his garden” was all too temporary. FringeNYC fans will really dig this show. And as Lord Buckley reminds us “Dig and thou shalt be dug.”