I have this fascination with experimental theater. I remember going to London for the first time in college and seeing this avant-garde production underneath London Bridge. We had to crawl through a gym locker that opened into a room where the actors were waiting for us. I loved it. It was one of those early theatrical experiences that opened my eyes to the possibilities of what theatre could be. Baby Horse’s Destroy the Play, which opened at the Bard’s Town, was not nearly as earth shattering, though it’s cheeky and mischievous enough to create an impressionable evening.
As a company, Baby Horse’s goal is to provide performance art theatre that moves far away from the traditional realism of modern theatre. It involves heavy amounts of audience participation; the company predicts that the future of theatre is in this kind of work. In Destroy the Play, the actors (Jon Becraft and Kelli Fitzgibbon) perform three one-acts. During each play, the audience is invited to disrupt the scene at first using only movement, then vocals, and eventually by any means necessary. A box of props is laid out for the audience’s disposal. For our audience, what began as innocent timid gestures in front of the actors escalated to plastic swords, condiments, and ice water. I’ll let you imagine the details, but it got a little questionable when glass was broken. Dump a little alcohol on “no rules,” and it’s easy to predict what will follow.
The performers are technically good; they know what they are doing. They know how to sing, focus, and even hold an audience’s attention despite their situation. This makes the evening feel credible and gives it the needed tension to be successful. The MC (Joel Deckard) directs the proceedings with a slight Masterpiece Theatre style, ringing a little bell whenever he gets tired of watching you fail to distract his actors.
The show was slightly compromised due to the small size of the audience and probably would have worked better with a larger group. As it was, there weren’t a lot of spectators, so the work took on a kind of game-show quality. I would have been curious to sit and watch more of the plays; if I had more of a sense of what I was destroying, the affect may have been more impactful. Disrupting something I hadn’t been given time to understand felt wantonly destructive, rather than destructive for creative purposes. I felt controlled, as though I were being told what to do rather than being allowed to act on my own impulses.
What I do like about Baby Horse is that they are trying to do something different; and in a small community like Louisville, there is something big to be said for that. It’s refreshing to see a group trying to question what theater is and can be. I hope that they grow; I hope they can move beyond work that feels purely tongue and cheek – that they have the openness to question themselves and do more interesting plays without losing their humor. It’s one thing to mock theater as it currently is. But it’s another level of critique altogether to give us something better. I hope Baby Horse can eventually aspire to that.
Destroy the Play
March 29 and 30
7:30 p.m. – Tickets: $10
Baby Horse Theatre at
The Bard’s Town 1801 Bardstown Rd Louisville, KY 40205 502-749-5275
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner