KPBS AIRDATE: July 16, 2004
The audience was game. And the Game was on. But nobody wins in “Monstropoly.” The Eveoke Theatre piece is constructed as a board game, and the flexible Lyceum Space is squared off, with the audience seated all around the board. Instead of properties and Utilities for sale, the spaces are more socially relevant elements of our society, from Military to Media, Retail to Religion. Each section of the audience, which is expected to participate, is labeled with such provocative monikers such as Pleasure is Paramount, Money = Freedom. The multi-billionaire Game Pieces assigned to each section are enigmatically named Sinkerman, the Woman with Breasts Pressed to the Wind, Holly Hobby Holding a Pineapple on the Edge of a Precipice, the Roly-Poly Bug and the more familiar Raggedy Ann and Andy. When you figure it out, explain it to me.
It gets much more complex, and takes quite a while for the rules to be explained. There are Money Bunnies who cavort and dance around periodically. There are several Jokers, including Dice Boy, who serves as a rolling human die, and an armed policeman who imposes stiff curtailments of human rights and arrests and tortures Game Pieces at will. The chief joker is The Lovely Jo Anne Love, played by the adorable Jo Anne Glover, who describes each of the squares in hip-hop rhythm and rhyme, and interacts aggressively with the audience. With all the explication, it’s still not clear if the observers are supposed to have a serious or a cynical take on our societal ills and what good buying them will do. There were examples of both throughout the lengthy, 2 1/2 hour evening.
As publicized, the objective was to draw attention to the “prison-industrial complex,” which includes not only deplorable conditions, but also the fact that American prisoners are used as ultra-cheap labor for creating money-making goods, from lingerie to light fixtures. This feature is not particularly highlighted onstage, although we are nearly beaten to death with visual and auditory images of imprisonment.
The results of the effort are disturbing, but not always in the ways intended. The social commentary is reductive and redundant, the dance is minimal, the drama nearly nil. There are many talented performers involved, but they are shamefully underused: Acclaimed actors like Glover and Jim Chovick, dancers such as butoh expert Charlene Penner and Eveoke stars Nikki Dunnan and Ericka Moore, whose company swan-song this is. Though Moore and Dunnan’s prolonged first-act duet, as Raggedy Ann and Andy, was well executed, the choreography was tedious and superfluous, unrelated as it was to the Game that followed. Overall, the concept overwhelmed the content and intent, Co-directors Gina Angelique and Michael Mufson took a chance on this game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.