KPBS AIRDATE: September 16, 1992
When storyteller David Cale invites you in, you definitely feel like you’re in “Somebody Else’s House.” He embodies, becomes, a multitude of characters. They aren’t quite people you want to know, but they’re people you sort of understand. You get a visceral feel for their isolation, their repression and sense of loss, and their attempts, however feeble, to bust out and break free.
The place is the Victoria section of London . The ten characters we meet live in the same single-room-occupancy residence, a place of “little rooms with tissue walls.” They share a bathroom with each other as they share a piece of themselves with us.
Most memorable are Sissy, a guy who thinks his nickname comes from his similarity to Sissy Spacek in the movie “Badlands” — and he tries to live up to that role, ultimately burning down his house. His story is as sad as the rest, but like his pet duck, he is finally liberated.
There’s Christina, the fair-skinned girl from a bigoted family who falls for a black man and begins to feel “embarrassed to be white.” Her life turns into a never-ending sexual cycle of wanting and waiting.
There’s a gay guy who denies his inner self and another who only finds himself in the beds of music performance stars. And there’s the crazed, intense, raspy strangler whose story is so compelling, you practically hold your breath until he’s finished… It’s a brief hour, but you feel winded at the end, and a little wasted.
Cale inhabits these characters, switching effortlessly from one heavy accent or dialect to the next. From an Irishman on the wagon, fantasizing a sexual relationship between God and the devil, to the drawling Texan to the tight-kneed girls, the uptight guys and the baby-voiced Qui Qui who lives inside a man and triumphs when the fellow opens up and tries to free himself. There’s an element of hope at the end, but this isn’t a happy lot.
The English-born Cale is a master of lingo and cadence. You actually have to listen pretty hard. By the time you adjust to one accent, he’s on to the next. And boy, does he know people. In a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds, he captures an essence — somebody’s dreams and nightmares, fears and demons and expectations. There are telling lines, stuffed, almost hidden, in-between a bunch of others, which seem to reveal something close to the bone of the writer. Like the title-source: “I live in the world like it was somebody else’s house.” Or “Everyone’s looking for something real in their unreal world.” Or, “I’ve got gallows humor combined with a positive outlook on life.”
David Cale doesn’t align himself with the performance artists who thrash about onstage, baring their souls and ultra-personal tribulations. Like a good storyteller, he creates powerful images, then wraps them around you and cinches them tight, leaving you breathless.
“Somebody Else’s House” is billed as a work in progress. It’s a very strong production as is, though I’m not too sure about Qui Qui, who opens and closes the piece. Maybe it’s the voice, that sounds so strained. It grated on me. The rest of the cast… well, I wouldn’t want to live with any of them, but I’m not sorry I was introduced to them.
…Speaking of great casts, just a brief end-note: Don’t miss “A Chorus Line” at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista . Only through this weekend and definitely worth the trip.
For KPBS radio, I’m Pat Launer.
©1992 Patté Productions Inc.