I saw “Strange Love” (by Skewed Visions) at the Northwestern Casket Company last night. It was not a musical, as I claimed in my previous post. It’s a performance art piece, mixed with an installation.
It was brilliant. It was site-specific, so the Casket Company was mentioned a few times, and the used the space to its fullest benefit. Most of the action took place in the basement. However, the action began right after we got there. The performance was sold out, but we were told that we could wait around and see if anyone doesn’t show up. So, we waited by a window and a few minutes later, a man in a doctor’s smock with his face painted white exited the elevator and approached us. The ticket guy cut him off to tell him we weren’t ready yet. I was enthralled. Luckily, some people couldn’t come so we got tickets. In the meantime, the doctor would survey the crowd and decide who to bring down with him.
Finally, our turn was upon us. The doctor gave us and two other a spiel about surveillance and war and Dr Strangelove himself. Your first stop in the installation is a modified photo booth where you watch a short video in the cramped space. The video included a movie clip and bits of the surveillance the artist did on her friends. You crawl out the non-curtain side of the photo booth — just a tiny door in the booth. Then you walk through a maze and some dilapidated doors. Everything is divided by black tarp so it becomes a disorienting maze. The next station provides a transparent opening through the tarp to watch videos of friend surveillance. But there’s also a big screen that it takes a minute to understand: it’s the people in the photo booth! So you were being watched without knowing it, while you watched the short film.
Finally you get to a bigger part of the basement that resembles the war room from “Dr Strangelove”, except the tables are made from the doors of the casket company. The door next to me had a casket checklist. For example, “Are the pillows in order?” The doctor who led us down to the basement then comes on and a video begins. Basically he goes through bits of the movie mixed with news footage from the cold war to today. He recites bits from the film, his own dialog, and I think possibly bits from political speeches. The guy is great at voices and impersonations, which is very appropriate considering Peter Sellers’ three roles in “Dr Strangelove”. Most of the time he was in the “Dr Strangelove” character, but he’d switch between Mandrake or the President, or any of the characters at different times as he did the same sequence of dialog almost three times. After the first two times, leading to the destruction at the end of the film, he’d retreat to a red box.
While he was in the box, a girl in tube socks, hot pants and a yellow house coat came on to “dance” to cheesy ’80s songs. Her dancing was basically moving her arms a bit and walking around fairly slowly. After she left, the doctor guy would try to do her dances but manage to mess it up. It was absolutely hilarious. My friend Emily didn’t quite agree with me, but I think the “dancing” was supposed to be war, which makes me love it even more. I believe this because she only came on while he was in the red box, and he went inside the box because 1)the bomb in the movie went off 2)the Vietnam War began 3)the Iraq war started.
“Strange Love” is continuing for a couple more weeks, so please support locals artists and check it out! I guarantee you will not regret it. Here’s an MPR story to whet your appetite even more (the vacuum cleaner bit was not in the performance I saw).