Please Let Me Love You
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 1, 2006
Dan Fishback's Please Let Me Love You is billed as a "tragic performance play," which feels about right, especially if "tragic" is taken ironically. It's a loose, edgy, angry review of what's wrong with US right now, with the War in Iraq and Michael Jackson serving as iconic emblems of same. Smart and funny and off-the-wall, it's an engaging and sometimes thought-provoking bit of performance art, one that's, alas, likely doomed here in the HOT! Festival to be preaching to the converted instead of delivering authentically new ways of thinking about the world to its audience.
Fishback's genius, as far as I can tell from this first exposure to his work, seems to be the Apt Juxtaposition. (Isn't that what a great deal of contemporary art is?) He offers some breathtaking, unexpected conjunctions in Please Let Me Love You, like when he plays "We Are the World," the self-satisfied celebrity charity songfest from the mid-'80s, over footage of the invasion of Iraq: how, he seems to be asking, did we get from there to here? A similarly satisfying and useful leap underlies the entire play, namely the notion that Michael Jackson (the current weird one, not the little boy wonder or the '80s icon behind "Billie Jean") is a metaphor for the U.S. government. Fishback points us at a Jackson who manipulates the media, the public, and innocent bystanders (i.e., boys) for his own selfish gain; who publicly espouses Grand Causes while his private behavior seems to belie his actually believing in anything.
What's good about Please Let Me Love You is that it manages these twisty thought patterns in a broadly entertaining way. Some of the show is evocative multimedia, but most of it is monologues and scenes, performed by Fishback and his small ensemble (Megan Gaffney, Eric Luppe, Jason Rabinowitz, Preston Spurlock, and Samantha Tunis, two of whom—the program doesn't clearly indicate which—provide live musical accompaniment on guitar, toy xylophone, and other interesting percussive devices). The subjects of these pieces range from a Muslim woman from Iran finding liberation in the America of the Gloved One, to a pair of dueling mothers handing out leaflets pro- and anti-homosexuality, to a weird and wonderful dream that Fishback claims to have had in which he thought he was Michael Jackson, serving in the American army in Fallujah.
Fishback's writing is funny and sharp but could probably benefit from editing; interestingly he's at his most poetic when he's describing sex acts in raw and vivid detail. (Be prepared for graphic language: it is the HOT! Festival after all.) The music, credited to Dibson Hoffweiler and Preston Spurlock in addition to Fishback, is almost the best part of the evening—it's evocative and understated and always surprising.