Trigger Kids
Tribe Theater, 403 NW 5th, 227-3976, Fri-Sat, 8pm, one week only, $6

Somewhere in the middle of Trigger Kids, a b-boy flunky explains how he came to turn his life around. By my count, it's the eighth time Portlander Joe von Appen has switched personas in his character-driven monologue performance. A moment ago, he was a corporate middle-manager confessing his hopeless love to a coworker with abstract and unsettling directives like, "Let me be your coffee cup." But now he's definitely a b-boy. So, the b-boy explains how his dream girl convinced him to huff glue and watch the sun set. A few deep breaths later, he was being led into a dark forest by midgets when God started talking to him--in Finnish. Now he's born again and enrolled in night school, where he's studying Finnish to decipher the word of God. It all feels a little misguided, but it's precisely the twisted logic that defines the disparate voices in this inspired and frenetic one-man show.

Each of the characters in Trigger Kids misinterprets the world around them by casting themselves as the lead in highly unlikely and very paranoid dramas. This is underscored by the fact that the dozen or so characters are played by a single actor. As von Appen sorts out the voices in his head, you see why he believes that "a single voice or stage presence brings more urgency to the performance." After all, each of his characters is isolated in one way or another, so it's an apt presentation.

So who are the Trigger Kids, exactly? According to von Appen, "they are byproducts of growing up in the '80s, in a culture that was--and is--fixated on death. They're misfits with idiosyncratic delusions. They each have their own epiphanies. But in the end, they're just overly optimistic romantics colliding with a cynical world." From the opening character's self-absorbed misreading of the city's graffiti as stage cues in a blockbuster movie production, to a yokel adolescent who needlessly worries that satellite dishes are upturned robot ears broadcasting alien messages on his TV, von Appen's Kids view the world like they're staring down the barrel of a gun.