by Jason S. Grossman · August 15, 2014
Peristalsis (look it up!). An unusual name for a FringeNYC show and an unusual show. 'Peristalsis' is a jazzy dissertation on the journey of writer/musician/performer Jerry Finkelstein's painful odyssey to repair a ruptured vertebral disc.
Finkelstein presents a colorful depiction of his unrelenting, excruciating back ailment and educates us a little about art, music and coping in the process. His lyrical language is clever and rhythmic with touches of psychodelia. He takes us through his ordeal of sleepless nights, popping Valium vainly attempting to will away the unbearable pain caused by the jelly-like fluid leaking from the injured disc. He stops to sing "Jelly on My Nerve" blues. He conjures analogies of donuts and muses about appearing on TV's Jeopardy. Pain never seemed so painless.
Finkelstein picks up his saxophone and plays a bit. Later, he parodies a standard on a homemade instrument. He fantasizes and prays for a reprieve from his plight. Projections punctuate his visual verbiage. We see dreamy Monet-inspired watercolors and provocative Rorschach blot images. All in all, it's a one-man variety show ably directed by Cecilia Rubino.
The show title refers to the contraction and relaxation of muscles for the transmission of contents through a tube (as in the digestive process). Finkelstein scats his wish to somehow use this process to move the evil jelly away from the nerve in his back, thus freeing him of the pain. Fortunately, the performer's gross discomfort is our entertainment. He demonstrates his difficulties preparing for his surgery whether it's supplying a urine sample or somehow enduring a pre-operative stress test.
Providing an assortment of humorous voiceovers are JR Atkins, Justin Calvert, Annabella De Meo and Deanna Nokes. These add color to Finkelstein's anecdotes, emphasizing a distinct lack of compassion on the part of medical personnel.
Finkelstein's tolerance of his debilitating situation and humorous outlook is appealing. He almost makes you feel like you can scat your own pains away.
This show appears to be a new work for Finkelstein and his mastery of the material will only improve. Anyone who thanks his dog in the Acknowledgements (indicated as Assistant Director) can't be bad.