nytheatre.com review by Kevin Connell
This 60-minute one-person play finds
its roots in the idea of the "berserker," which turns out to be a term
attached to many "bloodthirsty" characters throughout history—such as
ancient Scandinavian warriors, Count Dracula, American slave Nat Turner,
and the cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Solo performer Paul
Outlaw interweaves texts taken from such sources as The Confessions
of Nat Turner, the Jeffrey Dahmer transcripts, and autobiographical
confessions based on his own life, to create a stylized performance
piece that explores the lustful desires of "supermen," or are they
August 15, 2003
I am intrigued by Outlaw’s portrayals of Turner and Dahmer, and his ability to bring to life parallels to these seemingly different men while illuminating the dark obsessions within himself. The historical Turner was born into slavery in 1800 and led a small army of slaves on a thirty-six-hour rampage through the country, in which they axed or beat to death fifty-nine white men, women, and children. He was hanged and skinned in November of 1831. The contemporary Dahmer was born in 1960 and arrested in 1991 for the murders of seventeen young men, whom he had photographed, dismembered, sexually abused, and, in some cases, cannibalized. He was found guilty, sentenced to life in prison and killed by an inmate in 1994. The Dahmer and Turner texts serve as a springboard for the even more interesting autobiographical portions of this piece. I loved the simplicity of Outlaw’s retelling of his family lineage as he pointed to the various shades of his skin to identify each family member by a color on his own flesh. His retelling of a sexual encounter at the age of fourteen with a man in his mid-forties was brutally honest and arousing as it brought to climax the disturbing realities of the power one person has over another.
Outlaw is enormously committed to this play, but he seems uncomfortable with most of the heightened physicality throughout, not seeming to finish any one moment before moving on to the next. The use of repeated gestures and dance-like moves fail to bring any deeper meaning to the script. His "Karen Finley-esque" smashing of tomatoes and rubbing of red-dyed spaghetti on his body seems only to force a style of performance art, but ultimately left my theatrical appetite unfed—which is unfortunate, as I found the source materials to be quite compelling.