Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Cambridge, MA) Liars and Believers are well-versed in the art of collage. Bringing together dance, clowning techniques, poetry, music, mask-work, circus performance, and whatever you could call the live-improv style randomness that happens at Club Oberon, they have presented a beautiful ode to the pain of anonymity brought about by the modern technological era in their piece Talk to Strangers. Transient and fleeting, I could no more pin this piece down with words than replicate it.
Like most things at Oberon, the performance was full-contact theatre. Audience members were encouraged to buy each other drinks, talk to each other, high five, and fist bump. To break the ice, LAB set up an anonymous texting service which allowed you to text with a stranger for as long as you wanted. You simply texted a number projected on the screen and you were assigned a stranger who was also interested in texting. Your own phone number and identity were kept private, though you were warned that your texts might later be used for “art”. This device was an engaging way to allow us audience members, well-trained in the city-people art of keeping our heads down, to feel comfortable opening up to someone who we had never before met.
Through its various layers of anecdotal performance, Talk to Strangers depicted the loneliness of city living, the fear that it fosters in the hearts of men, and made some attempt to suggest ways that we can combat these feelings. While I won’t say that this style of theatre (disjointed cabaret acts with no sense of connection to each other) is everyone’s cup of tea, it was certainly an effective medium for what LAB was portraying with this piece.
As a tiny anecdote into theatre history, I will also say that this is the first time I had seen classical Commedia Dell’Arte performed live complete with suggestive masks and brazen Italiano. And it was awesome. Last night was also the first time I had ever seen a theramin played in person. That was also awesome. Well played, Liars and Believers. Well played.
Talk to Strangers was definitely not for the weak of heart. Rather than the usual ninety-minute fare we are used to at Oberon, this show lasted a full-length two and a half hours. While that might not seem like such a big deal to the gallery participants, those of us standing on the dance floor were more than a little uncomfortable by the end because of Oberon’s walkabout, no-chair accommodations. Though admirable in its efforts, LAB might have pushed the envelope a bit far with its full-length promenade piece. Engaging, certainly, but perhaps a bit much for the work-a-day world.
Despite this hiccup, strong performances on the parts of all involved parties definitely aimed to please. There wasn’t a weak link in the bunch; this multi-talented cast sang, spun, and acted their way to glory last night. If the show were ever to be repeated, I would encourage anyone to go catch it. For the highest efficacy, try an experiment: go alone. See what happens if you end up at this performance without the comfortable buffer of someone you already know. Who knows; you might just meet an enchanting stranger.