It's campy postmodernism at its finest, fueled by live computer graphics and a self-reflexive narrative that travels at the speed of a thousand meta-bits per second. Four digital video cameras shoot the main characters and their stunt doubles against a green screen while laptops connected to the cameras send the characters on tabloid-inspired adventures that the audience views on four high-resolution screens. There are high-speed car chases, seedy motel shoot-outs, decadent pool side trysts, and so on. This isn't just cheese; it's fromage with a chaser of Dom Perignon and lighter fluid. The show is raw and caustic even as it remains sleek and professional.
The cheeky company moniker "Big Art Group" comments on the scale of the production rather than indicating any philosophical weight in the piece itself. This anti-artistic impulse can be found in such other shows as Roadhouse, but BAG's painstaking craftsmanship sets it apart from other troupes that revel in their amateurism. The production assistants sit behind control stations (Apple notebooks) with mad-scientist faces; the videos they create are part of the performance itself, and the actors play soap-opera melodrama well enough to give daytime TV stars a run for their money.
The design team makes sure that the actors look as phony as their wonderfully tacky dialogue: Makeup artist Frances Sorensen slathers thick globs of cosmetics on them for some memorable close-ups, and Kim Gill's prosthetics create some angry noses. Downtown costumer Machine has come up with skimpy red garments and green high heels that disappear into the backgrounds of the video images. The men wear crudely sewn and duct-taped hybrids of business shirts when they aren't sporting Speedos and cocktail dresses.
The bending of race and gender makes for recurring gags and sharp commentary. One collaged image of the bombshell heroine combines her face with that of her black male alter ego (see photo above); his straight blonde wig critiques ideals of feminine beauty found in the films that this show spoofs. Meanwhile, an Asian actor who plays the Hasselhoffian stud has a bouffant hair-do that lampoons traditional notions of masculinity. Oh, and one enormous boob falls through a strategic hole in the shirt worn by the tough-guy villain, even though the character is male.
The plot's a funny but unimportant detail in this visual spectacle; Jemma Nelson's laugh-a-minute script derives art from tortured lyricism and Caden Manson provides the piece with strong direction -- in whatever direction it may be heading. There may not be much more to House of No More than meets the eye, but the show's visual candy and skillful comedy make it too good to miss.
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