Lone Twin at Corberry Press on Sunday Evening
–posted by Lisa Radon
Very quickly: I have never heard Lone Twin described accurately. Oh, sure I heard the best minds of my generation in Portland lauding their ’04 performance in a way I rarely hear from jaded they. I heard about clouds and river water and melancholy and humor. There were stabbings at specifics.
At the beginning of the fest, if you’d asked me what do you really want to see, I would have said Lone Twin. But at the end of the week between the exhaustion and my typical anti- reaction to the hype, I was almost ready to blow off Lone Twin on Sunday night after nearly two complete festivals-worth of anticipation.
It’s a good thing for all of us that I went. For me, because I witnessed a great performance. For you, that I am here to accurately describe the performance…or at the very least add a missing dimension to the description so that you too will long to see them and be forced to internationally chase them down. (Last year, friends followed them to Seattle to see more.)
Now, I’m not quick enough on my feet (or my ears) to detect specific poetic form on the fly. (Well I guess I can tell a sonnet or haiku when it hits me in the face, but when it comes to villanelles and sestinas, I get a bit foggy.)
What I can tell you is that Lone Twin’s performance was a sporadically additive, repetitive poem in 21 parts or “dramas”, an
organic pantoum-like poem that alternated between exposition, allusion, instruction, apology, and memory, storytelling but tangentially, all cut-up and rewoven to make a cumulative if masterfully oblique narrative that resolves only enough to give one a view of it through the slatted plastic curtains in a meat locker. Phrases are repeated, interwoven, revisited, and couched with new phrases. The whole shot is peppered with sing-along pop songs from the 70s played on a cassette tape recorder.
The counterpoint to the poem, or its accompaniment is the dance, one of symbolic movements that are connected to the quasi-narrative bits of the poem. That is to say, that much of the time Gary the Revolver is walking, two-stepping, and hopping around the theater in the round stage, performing prescribed and named movements, primarily with his left hand (probably) including chopping, fist-shaking, bowing, shimmying, indicating rain…
But these actions have been described before. The dance. The making of the cloud of cattail seeds. The making of the cloud from the sweat of a man who has worn too many clothes and danced in a circle to “the worst music in the world” throughout the 21 dramas.
What is thrilling about the piece is that here, finally, there is a duo that has taken the spoken word in a very straightforward way and brought it successfully to the Festival. (I should say that Allen Johnson accomplished a similar feat with his monologue that occasionally drifted into poem…I saw it last year). There is no need for look-at-me technology, heavy-handed direction, or worse yet, ACTing to make the spoken word work on the stage. Time and again, poem or spoken word puts on the fancy dress–the oversized video screens, the cast of thousands, the musical accompaniment–as if to hide its insecurity of being seen naked on the stage. And the times when it has come stripped down, it came with its pants down as well, (no, I’m not talking about Johnson) wallowing in a personal emotional therapy session that was the worst of what the word, at its most obvious, uninteresting, and journal-y can be.
Lone Twin demonstrated all the best of the complex and compelling work that can be made with little more than word.
So huzzah for the Twin, and note this landmark of word in performance. Now about next year…