The Posture Queen
Hand to Mouth Through September 2
DISCLAIMER: Due to a variety of circumstances, including a full house consisting of hundreds of viewers and a distinct lack of air-conditioning, the temperature inside the Rose City Ball Room at Hand 2 Mouth's opening night production of The Posture Queen was approximately 900 degrees Fahrenheit. All measures have been taken to rectify the situation since (including the installation of an air-conditioning system), but be forewarned that the contents of the following review were subject to extreme bouts of sweating, panting, and overall discomfort, and may reflect accordingly.
Posture Queen tells the story of Issan Dorsey, a cross-dresser who winds up as the head monk at a Buddhist commune after a stint in the navy and various drug problems. It's structured around a single day at the commune, and uses the various rituals that Dorsey and his followers engage in to trigger flashbacks that reveal the various stages of the man's life. The transitions into the past involve some very subtle and effective changes in sound and light, and a lot of strong acting from the play's chorus, whose members each seem to play at least 10 different characters before all is said and done. Marc Weaver, as Dorsey, imbues the character with a high-cheek-boned charisma that makes it easy to see how he could lead a commune despite his checkered past.
For all its talent and energy, though, the production still lacks something very important: a point. Admittedly, I was having some trouble concentrating on the play through the glaze of sweat stinging my eyes, but I tried my best, and still only took away the idea that Dorsey's life was pretty hard, and that he died because he did a lot of drugs and fucked around with strange men. Nothing is done to make sense of his life. The production recreates a series of scenes from Dorsey's life without stopping to wonder why it is recreating them, or finding any real link between them. The result is that many of them feel--including one in which film director, Roman Polanski, makes an appearance (??)--arbitrary, tacked on for aesthetic appeal rather than for the sake of the story.
But remember, my brain was melting. It's possible I missed some key ingredient that tied everything together. There's a lot I admired about the production. I just didn't enjoy myself watching it.