Brian Dykstra: Cornered & Alone
Brian Dykstra: Cornered & Alone is part comic monologue, part performance poetry, and part political rant. The writer-performer commands the stage as he riffs on everything from the Defense of Marriage Act to the death of Ronald Reagan. Dykstra does not dive headfirst into such material; after opening the show with a politically inflected spoken word poem, he banters with the audience about how he initially set out "to deconstruct the one-man show form" and provides some humorous examples of this. But once he does begin the more blatantly political portion of the evening, he doesn't let up. When he's not taking acerbic pot shots at Bush, he's commenting on the environment, health care, and the war in Iraq.
Dykstra has seemingly boundless energy and a good rapport with his audience. As directed by Margarett Perry, he also knows how to modulate his rhythm, pace, and vocal inflections for maximum effect. His delivery is particularly notable in the various slam poetry pieces that he intersperses throughout the evening; he wraps his mouth around a plethora of tongue-twisting phrases and clever rhymes, speaking at a very fast clip yet managing to clearly articulate every word. At times, he is hysterically funny. But while Dykstra is able to elicit torrents of laughter and applause from his audience, he's even more impressive when he stuns them into thoughtful silence. Though his main target is the Bush administration, he implicates all Americans in his critique.
Maruti Evans's set is dominated by a large and somewhat tattered American flag at the back, rendered in shades of gray and white. It looms over Dykstra as a comment that America is not the vibrant, colorful, "good" nation that it thinks it is. According to this writer-performer, if the world can be broken down into "good" and "bad" -- which is what George W. Bush would like us to believe -- we're the ones wearing the black hats.