back to back theatre May 30, 2008

by Tania Kupczak

*The author of this blog assumes that you are already familiar with "small metal objects", by reading other posts or summaries, or seeing it yourself. This piece left me with a rare emotional dichotomy: I'm certain that I understand what happened, how it was constructed, why certain choices were made...and yet I'm simultaneously lost in the uncertainty of meaning that seemed to permeate the piece. DID I GET IT? Do I really understand what I just saw? I suppose it doesn't matter. It gave me a certain feeling, and that feeling was warm and compassionate. "small metal objects" would be a great example in an artistic discussion about showing rather than telling. It has very little exposition, and even less spoon-feeding in terms of the themes and message. Things happen, then the show ends. But the WAY they happen, especially in terms of the audience's point of view, are by far THE REASON TO SEE THE SHOW. This is the first On the Boards show that I immediately wanted to bring my mom back to. Its warmth and honesty make me feel that the artists are not trying to pull a veil over our eyes, but rather remove one. Is the piece a cry for attention from the different, the excluded, the confused, the "invisible"? Not so clearly. With the wonderful use of music and sound, sparse and elegant and sometimes jarring, we feel connected to Gary, and especially Steve. Ironically, we feel closer to Steve's soul than we usually do with actors not twenty feet away in a small theatre. Yet Steve is a good 100 feet away. One quality I appreciate is the use of long pauses before any responses from Steve and Gary. These unique men TAKE THEIR TIME. I assume nothing about their intelligence, but rather I am clearly reminded, over and over, that they value their words and actions more than the majority of society, busily bouncing through our days like pinballs. One great moment with the use of the public park: a woman, about 50, walked up to the actors during a pivotal moment and asked, "what's going on here? What is all this for?" The entire audience could hear her through the actors' microphones, though she was a good 150-200 feet away. The psychologist character turned very quickly and quietly and responded, "it's a play." Embarassed, the woman walked away and darted out of the audience's view, but it was too late. A crowd full of people wearing headphones was laughing hysterically at a poignant moment that could not have been planned and will never happen again. Thanks, OtB! See you next season! - Ben Rapson