By any reasonable account of its ingredients, Lasagna, Linas Phillips’ performance art piece, should be unendurable. It isn’t—but I’ll admit up front that proving otherwise may be beyond my capabilities.
Phillips and his actor friend Jim Fletcher (with whom he created the piece) essentially assume that their dreams, masturbation practices, and (oh, yes) feelings are worth 80 minutes of stage time. Phillips weeps on Fletcher’s shoulder over an ex-lover who told him she doesn’t think of him anymore. Fletcher breaks out into a sincere rendition of “Maybe I’m Amazed” (with guitar accompaniment from show composer Lori Goldston). Did I mention the interpretive dance?
No one can deny the facility with which the technical aspects of the piece are brought off. Phillips and Fletcher appear live, but also talk with one another via previously recorded video on flat screen TV. Phillips, on stage, relates the sexual details of his one-night stand to Fletcher, who “responds” via cell phone from the screen. The timing is faultless; you forget that the one can’t actually hear the other. Both actors also walk behind the TV in mid-conversation then appear on tape picking up the dialogue right where they left off. A mentally challenged character named Rimas provides nice comic leavening, too: It’s Phillips’ TV head above dancer Leah Schrager’s body; Rimas’s wisecracking exchanges with Phillips so upset the latter that he ends up throttling himself on screen.
The last 15 minutes or so, in which the two actors read from a book about “radiant bodies,” offer the best reason I can think of to label alien abduction author Whitley Strieber a major wanker. And while Fletcher seems generally relaxed on stage, Phillips is in danger of becoming entranced by his own whimsy. Does he honestly believe it’s enjoyable to watch him slurp spaghetti?
Yet Phillips’ complete lack of walls can transfix you. Something humane thrums inside his almost spooky frankness. He wants to bind himself to everyone else around him, to claim his thread in what he calls “the web of life.” Even if that means occasionally irritating the rest of us.
I guess I think that’s not an entirely bad plan.