Bindlepunks. It’s a funny word, yes? Well, Bindlepunks’ play, Our American Myth,is funny too. That’s funny ha ha and funny strange. Part free-form poetry, part political debate and part group therapy session, this experiment from some young local talent takes no prisoners in its exploration of what it is to be American, freedom of speech, gun control, and a variety of other very relevant and supercharged topics. The purpose is clear, the passion is apparent, the risk is high and the result is thought-provoking and certainly unique.
This theatrical conversation (which centers around the interactions of a politician and a blogger, both crafted from a number of real headlines and additional fictional elements) is mostly scripted and choreographed. When asking what feels like (at least in the beginning) mostly rhetorical questions to the spectators a sense of superficiality is seemingly created. This breaking the fourth wall, when not genuine engagement, is always a tricky line to walk successfully. This remedies itself as the play continues for the most part however, it does take a bit of getting used to at the start for sure. The cast presents well thought out and interesting enough ideas, actively debating different sides of arguments in a creative way but, there are times when the results seems a bit too contrived for me personally. The actors move from moments of addressing the audience to being in the moment of reenacted scenes (the real strength of this play I think) but the combination of the two styles could benefit perhaps from some smoother transitions or re ordering of some of the scenes.
Those that shy away from audience participation should be warned, you are encouraged (but in no way forced) to contribute and there are a variety of levels of engagement available. As soon as you set foot in the gallery you are presented with opportunities to contribute. From answering some questions, to writing down some feelings, to drawing a picture, to sharing your thoughts on some philosophical and political questions during the show, this is a performance that is enriched the more participation (and consequently points of views) from the audience that there is. That being said if you’re there to watch, you can certainly be a passive observer and not feel as though you are going to be guilted into performing.
The small gallery space is well suited to this piece and the integration of art into it is certainly appreciated. Interesting too is the ability in the round to watch other people react to what you are seeing. Shout out to the sound design for their attention to detail and their sense of humor and for designing a show that works in the small venue.
This won’t be everyone’s crown jewel for sure, but for the effort and the important conversation that starts/continues as a result of this experience, it is worth a commendable 3 out of 5 jewels in this Princess’ review tiara. Our American Myth plays at Works Gallery in San Jose (with a special 1 night performance at Satori Tea as well) through November 6th.