SALT LAKE CITY — Sugar Space is a relatively new theatre in the community. It’s only been around for two years and is already host to a number of exciting classes and productions. It offers belly dancing, aerial trapeze, and other equally unique and exotic recreational endeavors. Knowing this as I entered the theatre’s intimate space, I looked forward to the show I was going to see. I have to say that despite the zany atmosphere of this theatre, The Bogeyman, presented by the Riot Act theatre company, did not live up to my expectations.
Riot Act is a company from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They have likened themselves to other physical theatre groups such as brilliant troupe DV8, and while their brave ideas are somewhat akin to this distinct style of performing arts, they still have a long way to go and some major problems to overcome.
The Bogeyman is an original work written specifically for the company by Micheline Auger . While the play did give the troupe a great chance to explore the physicality of their craft, it did very little else. The writing was in fact the major difficulty with the performance. The actors did fine, but their problems came from the simple fact that there is no story. There are no solid characters, themes, or ideals other than the concept of masks and that was never clearly defined. The world of the play was intriguing and reminded me of movies like Mirrormask and Alice in Wonderland, but there was no Alice character to guide us and make some sense out of the nonsensical.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love theatre of the absurd, postmodernism, and the abstract. I adore the strange and unusual, and don’t feel like I need to have an explanation for everything. But I do feel that no matter how strange the actions and how nonsensical the text, there need to be feelings evoked in the audience; despite the writer’s efforts to create something deep out of chaos, I left the theatre feeling like I saw a show that was no more than absurdity for the sake of being absurd. I was literally subjected to actors covered in beer and tomato pulp and was almost being whipped in the face with glow sticks. The discomfort of such being the only real emotional response the show evoked in me.
While I had serious problems with the script, I felt the acting was commendable and I liked the choices the actors made to try and give some humanity to the work. The Narrator (Daniel Haworth) did a good job of interacting with the audience, the Businessman (John Hanlon) felt wide eyed and kind, and the Woman (Macey Mott) was certainly spunky and free spirited. The only complaint I really had with the actors were a few instances of slow pacing and some obvious problems with memorization.
While this show was a disappointment, I have not lost hope for Riot Act or Sugar Space. They’ve made some brave choices, and even though the show fell flat, there is still potential for something great and much needed in this region. Besides, these people dared to make a choice and that’s a lot more than some people are able to say about the entirety of their lives. So while I would not recommend this play overall, (especially for younger audiences) I think both Riot Act and Sugar Space are companies that if they can overcome some of their present difficulties, they will be shining stars of the artistic community.