Published in Gay and Lesbian Times January 30, 2003
If you’re looking for the performer behind the performance art, you’d have to surmise that Randall White is a pretty irritated, aggravated guy. In “Normal,” a solo show he wrote and performs (and presumably self-directed), all of the characters are floating along outside the mainstream — disaffected, disappointed, outcast, angst-ridden and angry. They may put on a game face, but in general, they’re incensed at their trivialized, marginalized existence.
Sometimes to intimates, sometimes to strangers, they say exactly how they feel, venting their wrath at all the injustices, while their own intolerance seeps into the outraged sludge. In 95 minutes, we meet 11 oddballs, making a full circle from a young kid who dons a towel like a superhero cape and tries to take wing, to a quadriplegic in a wheelchair who encourages us all to fly. Other characters seem to recur in subtle ways. The frustrated wife may just be the mate of the bar-hopping, business-trip husband. The kid’s best friend is killed in a car accident, and later, a father who’s lost a child fumes to a psychiatrist about his remaining daughter, who turns out to be a pregnant lesbian.
White is an affable, agile actor who, with a switch of headgear (and, intriguingly, a change of chair) transforms himself into males and females, gay and straight, robust and disabled. Too often, his portrayals (like the child and the makeup queen) are tiresome, overwrought stereotypes. He does particularly well with the unhappy, Lexus-driving housewife, the husband on the prowl, and the Latina lesbian ex-alcoholic on a mercy mission.
His rants come through in ways political (“I tried to make straight As, only to find the C students are in charge”) and personal (“I was asked to become a member of the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Asexual and Omnisexual Alliance…It was an entire freak show. No wonder people hate us””). This from the makeup artist Kristofer (“with a K and an F”) who keeps insisting, “I’m not bitter; I’m just annoyed.” That assertion seems to run through all these outcasts, though two of them really try to make a productive contribution to the teeth-gnashing discourse.
The Rev. Norman W. Blessing deplores prejudicial thinking, speaking out on behalf of the downtrodden “female, gay, disabled, poor, person of color” (all the characters we meet in “Normal”). He plaintively asks, “When did we step back in the darkness and call it the light?” His message reaches us, but it apparently hasn’t sat well with the ‘elders,’ who are rapidly approaching him, on their way to removing him from his ministry.
The final character, the man with cerebral palsy, imparts a message of hope. White relishes the moment of held breath when the audience first sees him. “Well,” he says cheerfully, “at least I’m not gay,” dispelling the tension, even as he flails a contorted body and flaunts his distorted speech (could White allow his real message to come through only in such an unlikely package??). He recommends that, when we’re really pissed, we do as he does; he lies and says he has Tourette’s syndrome, which allows his to rail and curse to his heart’s delight. But he really wants to “propose we all start over again… I fully intend to step out of my comfort zone. Hell, I fully intend to step. I fully intend to fly. Just walking doesn’t seem like enough. What are the rest of you going to do?”
It’s an inspiring message, but not a new one. The text isn’t breaking any fresh ground. But White is engaging and probably just about as ticked off as is ‘normal’ at this time in our collective devolution. At least he’s trying to do something constructive and creative about it.
“Normal” continues through February 1 at 6th @ Penn Theatre; 1-877-946-9997.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.