By the Light of the Porcelean Moon
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
September 2, 2006
By the Light of the Porcelean Moon is very funny and very, very strange. An unusual, fortuitous blend of performance art, movement, dance, and clown, this physical theatre performance written and performed by Michelle Seekamp (with performance by Audra Howard, Kali Quinn, and Deena Marcum-Frank) is a great deal of fun.
There is, first of all, this woman (Seekamp), with a clown's red-bulb nose and black boots with enormously long pointy-toes, who is contemplating life and death in her bathroom. First, in a bid to unbridled surrealism, she pulls several unexpected items out of her toilet. Next, she brings a hapless audience member on stage and asks him to shoot her (the guest star at the performance attended was masterfully unruffled and sharp). Then, after her attempt at assisted suicide fails, she decides to write a kind of memoir on toilet paper.
There is, also, another woman (Howard), with a huge head of hair and an incongruous strapless evening gown, who is ironing a t-shirt. Except the iron isn't plugged in, and she knows it's not, but she gets carried away enjoying the sensation of the appliance's implied warmth, venturing away from the garment and ironing various parts of herself in a manner that can only be described as rapturous. Howard is marvelously engaging and naturally comic: a true clown in the best sense of the word.
There is, also, one other woman (Quinn), who thinks she can play the violin, but mostly (very humorously) cannot.
Eventually, the woman with the iron and the woman with the violin turn up in the first woman's bathroom (where they are mistaken for Jehovah's Witnesses); a fourth woman (Marcum-Frank)—some sort of fairy godmother-ish entity—appears and a very odd modern dance ensues. The piece then arrives at a conclusion that makes no more sense than anything else that's happened yet still feels entirely organic and satisfying.
Is it possible to have a great time with a piece that you don't understand? My hour at By the Light of the Porcelean Moon proves that it is: maybe I'd have have enjoyed it more if I'd been able to parse it better, but I doubt it. Moment to moment, the piece is giddy and delightful and surprising, and I'm not sure we need to ask for more of surreal/postmodern clowning that's this well-executed.