Rapper. White Rapper. White Canadian Rapper rapping about evolutionary theories as they pertain to the online dating scene in a vain attempt to discover whether or not he will ever truly be able to find a stable mate in spite of his nomadic lifestyle of touring hip-hop shows. That is the crux of Baba Brinkman's brilliant and bizarre new theatrical mix-tape, Ingenious Nature at the Soho Playhouse.
Brinkman occupies an idiosyncratic position in the downtown theater scene: he constructs shows in which he carefully explains seemingly-tedious subjects (see his previous shows, The Rap Guide to Evolution and The Canterbury Tales Remixed) through the power of hip-hop, ostensibly to make them more palatable to a 21st century audience. But are downtown theater-goers really craving an infusion of "gangesterism" (Brinkman's word, not mine) into their normal diets of design-updated Shakespeare and naval-gazing solo shows? They should be. Brinkman proves that hip-hop is the perfect vehicle to elucidate complex scientific debates, especially as they relate to something we all care deeply about…SEX.
The evening begins with Brinkman pouring over OkCupid profiles as they are projected on the back of the stage. He occasionally asks a question that audience members can respond to via text (i.e. "Should I message her?"). He goes on to act out a series of dates set-up through OkCupid and Facebook and explains how each of them is relevant to a different area of biological science.
He raps about the germ theory of conservatism and histocompatibility and the evolutionary origin of misogyny --with perfect flow and exquisite diction. The ideas come at you a mile a minute, and it is clear that Brinkman is not only a talented rapper but a consummate academic, dedicated to scientific theory as a means to explain the mysteries of life, no matter how taboo.
During the performance, Brinkman enthusiastically commanded, "All the ovulating women in the house say ‘ho!'"
The audience shifted uncomfortably in their seats with the knowledge that most of the women at the performance were probably post-menopausal.
Although innovative, Brinkman's show is not entirely free from the trappings of the typical downtown solo show (as skewered by SNL's Half Jewish, Half Italian, Completely Neurotic). At one point Brinkman asks for a female volunteer from the audience and, sensing the reticence threatens, "I will pick on someone."
But to call this 75-minute affair a "solo show" would be to discount the contributions of Brinkman's collaborator and DJ, the strappingly handsome Jamie Simmonds. A man of few words, Simmonds can cut and scratch with the best of them and provides musical accompaniment to all of Brinkman's raps from behind his turntables. It doesn't hurt that Brinkman does a fair amount of talking-up Simmonds' virility and sexual exploits to the point where you might find yourself wishing that a phone number accompanied the complimentary CD of Brinkman and Simmonds' music, given to audience members upon exiting the theater.
Sadly, most of us will have to settle for Brinkman and Simmonds' ill rhymes, which will provide for much fruitful post-show discussion, especially if you have theater-going friends as science (and sex) obsessed as I do.