I recently went to the theater. It was not your typical run of the mill theatrical experience. Yes, there was a stage, some actors, magical lighting, live original music, songs, a plot and some laughs. However, it is not the type of show you would see unless you tend to seek the weird, or roam a little off the beaten path.
The path to the Nightingale Theater is not so hidden actually. Having recently celebrated their thirteenth year at the current location, the Nightingale is home to Midwestern Theater Troupe, Horsemeat Flea Circus and the recently added The Calamities musical ensemble. According to the Tulsa Area Community Theater Alliance (TACTA), the theater is located “in a small industrial park on Fourth Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One block East of Peoria, the theater borders both the East Village and downtown, and is easily accessible to the growing Brady District.”
While it may be on the physical map, at 1416 E. 4th street, it most definitely does not ring bells in people’s minds when they think of going to the theater. And why not? Theater, as an art form, begs the questions…what is beautiful? Or better yet, what is meaningful? The answer to these questions might reside in obscurity.
Baby Fat swoons in “The Method and the Madness”
This play that I went to last night, called “The Method and The Madness,” certainly got me thinking about these questions. Written by Paco Ortega, a pen name of Tulsa playwright, actor and director Joseph Gomez, is first and foremost a love story and that came through loud and clear. Look a little beneath the surface and you will find a story about a man, once broken by love and life, and his off and on mental instability. In an interview with the Tulsa World, Gomez commented that, “the tone of the show is largely comic – the better to deal with some of the more serious issues and ideas contained within the story.”
To be honest, it took me a minute to get over the initial shock in the first Act of seeing Paco’s brains splatter painted onto the backdrop. Suicide is nothing to take lightly and for the most part I do not subscribe to absurdism . But I had no choice. As soon as the first musical number started up, I was caught up, and I didn’t stop chuckling till the end.
“Love Blisters” performed by the whole cast had me smiling. “Drag the River” about the missing girl, Bessie, displayed real parental heartache. Honoring the Nightingale Theater’s innate ability to make anyone feel at home, especially those with creative talents, “Circus Girl” and “Swing Out Wide,” were both clever numbers full of rhymes, colorful costumes and fun choreography. The entire cast rose to the occasion, never dropping a bit on its face, always standing strong, even when faced with complicated tongue twisters or iambic pentameter.
I think it was the duet “Cow” between Paco, played by Gomez himself, and Bessie, played by Cassie Hollis, which really got to me. I am a sucker for love songs and this one was smart and well executed, as the two characters shared why they love each other so much. Their relationship borders on the demented and somehow Gomez makes that seem sweet. Because, why can a crazy person not know how to love?
Johnny Eyeball in “The Method and the Madness”
Of course it wouldn’t be a Gomez play or a Nightingale production if there weren’t some raunchiness thrown in for the fun of it. Numbers like Paco’s “Here For The Chicks” and “I Wanna Fuck You,” by Johnny Eyeball played by Chris Williams will for sure test your sensibilities.
In the midst of these musical numbers and slapstick comedy, is something real. And this is where the reason for the blog comes in. As with most creative endeavors, the good ones anyway, in between the lines lurks a message. If it weren’t for Art and Audience, what a sad and drab world this would be. The ability to laugh at ourselves, our failures and our breaks, is tantamount to surviving this existence. If you or someone you know struggles to conform to society’s cookie-cutter, homogenous, sterilized and overly perfect mandate, consider telling them about a really cool project that supports artists with “mental illness.” Check out Icarus Project.
I just wanted to say how proud I was of Joseph for putting himself out there, naked, for all of us to see, and for doing it in a way that dresses up the madness, without covering it up.
Gomez calls the Nightingale Theater his creative home. I know why. I would not be who I am today if it was not for the good graces of the Midwestern Theater Troupe, casting me in performances a decade ago when what I needed most on my journey was to laugh at myself amidst family and friends. So, if you care about Art and you believe it comes from a deep and sometimes dark place, go and support live theater, live music, original visual art and spoken word. These people bare all so we may grasp what goes on inside the mind.
“The Method and The Madness” is one such opus. And hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.
‘THE METHOD AND THE MADNESS’
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Aug. 2-3 at 8pm
Where: Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
Tickets: $10 at the door.