The Performant: Weekend in Wonderland

Pub date September 29, 2011
SectionPixel Vision

ALICE and Folsom Street Fair fall down different holes

From North Beach to South of Market, clowning to carousing, the weekend offered up a veritable smorgasbord of sensory overload and playful edge. First off, a debut performance of a quirky bit of deconstruction in new kid venue on the North Beach block, The Emerald Tablet. Written and conceptualized by two spirited performers (Edna Miroslava Barrón and Karen Anne Light), “ALICE: Down the Rwong Wrabbit Whole” offered a welcome introduction to both the space and the still-fresh faces of the presenting duo.

Billed as a version of Alice in Wonderland in which the two performers play “all 359 characters” (they don’t quite make it) the performance quickly becomes more of an exploration of the creative life rather than a linear narrative based on that classic tome. In a schizophrenic, sometimes mimed, frenzy, Barrón and Light assume and discard a handful of roles in rapid-fire sequence—Alice, Dinah the cat, the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar—but the characters that wind up with the most stage time are themselves as they jostle each other for center stage. Light launching into a series of poker-faced monologues regarding the importance of art and professionalism in theatre; Barrón undermining her pedantic pomposity at every turn with unscheduled pee breaks and incandescent bursts of childish enthusiasm.

“We’re like a pear and an orange,” she confides, referring to her and Light’s working relationship. “Totally different…but we still taste good together.”

“Actually we’re more like a pineapple and a quasar,” retorts Light, re-entering the scene after a brief jaunt into Salvador Dali territory. Supported throughout the performance by Barrón’s idiosyncratic sound design (she moonlights as DJ Nobody of KUSF/KUSF-in-Exile), and punctuated by moments of brilliance (a water-logged Mad Hatter’s Tea Party scene, for example), “Rwong Wrabbit Whole” plays for the most part like a string of firecrackers. Plenty of bang, despite lacking a particular climactic epiphany.

Sunday dawned damp, but fortunately by the afternoon it was downright balmy, just perfect for the parade of fantasy and flesh that is the Folsom Street Fair. Though it’s safe to say no-one really heads down to the Fair for the music, every year there’s always at least one standout act, and this year that act was the sultry electro-soul chanteuse Billie Ray Martin. Although late in the day, the sweet pulse of the music infused the worn and torn crowd with blissed-out euphoria. Although perhaps best known by the club kids for her stint in 90’s house music ensemble Electribe 101, Martin’s husky, powerful vocals would not be out of place shimmering on the soundtrack for the next James Bond flick, or tucked into a Gladys Knight tribute album. And the buoyant electro-clash of songs such as “Sold Life,” “Undisco Me,” and Hard Ton duet “Fantasy Girl,” juxtaposed against her rough diamond voice and Kit Kat Klub cabaret style offer a compelling combination you wouldn’t want to miss no matter the occasion.

“ALICE: Down the Rwong Wrabbit Whole”
through October 15
The Emerald Tablet
80 Fresno, SF
(415) 500-2323