Before I publish my actual, more well-balanced review of Lyubo, I wanted to talk about actually seeing it.
This is a puppetry/dance/musical piece about an American who visists Bulgaria in 1925 and writes his daughter letters. Pop Quiz: When's the last time you gave Bulgaria in 1925 any thought at all? Be honest. I won't judge you. Would you really like to?
I went with my girlfriend, Pam, who was barely able to contain her laughter. She was wiping tears from her cheeks, folks. That sort of laughter. Silent, painful, inappropriate laughter. Really, one of the best kinds, if you're watching it from the side, like me. I think it's cute as hell. She, of course, was being tortured by a thousand tiny clowns with feathers.
The fact is, we were watching things happen that can only be treated by adults with a sense of irony with a chuckle. A man in a giant Yetti suit actually put the standing microphone up INTO his faceless Yetti mask, stroked a puppet and sang a song about the Sacraments. Oh, and there were people dancing with little swinging weights. Rolling around, trying to commune with these damn things or somesuch. Rolling on the floor. And there was a red horse, that you wouldn't know anything about at all if you didn't read the program. Sort of a horse. A horse's head and feet. And...well...you get the picture. A hodgepodge of random stuff, some of it as silly looking as my high school english teacher would look in a Speed-o.
Afterwards, Pam profoundly apologized for laughing. No need, of course. The only people who wouldn't laugh out loud at these nearly hypnotized looking puppeteer/dancers performing these ridiculously "weighty" and earnest movements are either there to review the show (me, for example) or probably a little insane. Or just so convinced they HAVE to like it that their pride has coopted all normal brain activity. That's not to say there isn't anything to enjoy in Lyubo but there is a TON of semi-coherent masturbation going on too that just needs to be taken for exactly what it is. Oh, and if you dress up like a big, white Yetti and stroke a puppet, you better not get on the microphone.
It's a strange balance to hit: accessible, brilliant, new art that doesn't pander to the MTV Generation...but also isn't designed only for rich tourists or the blue-haired crowd who just can't get enough Billy Crystal and Chicago. The far end is stuff like this and Richard Foreman. Those artists who basically think that as long as they explain in the linear notes that they have some REASON for dressing up like a potted plant, covering themselves in honey and letting bees polinate them, that we are to take it seriously.
We're caught in the middle, I fear. Cursed with good taste. Or, at least, taste of some sort.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.