nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
January 7, 2009
Reggie Watts is one of the most compulsively watchable performers I've encountered in recent memory. Disinformation, his piece of last year's Under the Radar Festival, was my first foray into his world and sound bytes and images from it are still etched firmly in my mind.
As it turns out, this time my mind didn't have to work that hard to be reminded of Watts's signature stylings, because there is little structural difference between Transition (co-created with director Tommy Smith), this year's entry to the UTR, and last year's Disinformation.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are new to the world of Mr. Watts. His show is a thoroughly entertaining, just-under-an-hour-long offering with video, music, dance, and Watts's amazing live mixing skills. The scenes with his supporting cast are definitely scripted, but I still can't tell if he doesn't just freestyle his solo pieces. His verbal dexterity is unparalleled and filled with surprises often humorous and sometimes bordering on racy.
Sadly, this is where the ball is dropped. Watts puts out a lot of ideas: obsessive social networking as the destroyer of actually being social, unrequited love, '80s pop culture, commercial branding, murder, and racism, to name a few. He comments on them with that trendy brand of ironic humor—the world he creates in many scenes is not unlike the world showcased in an American Apparel billboard. But the many loose ends are never tied up, and in the span of the show, nothing deeper than the surface is scratched on any of these topics. I'm not at all sure how Watts and Smith feel about these things beyond finding them interesting fodder for mockery.
And as I thought more on last year's show, I realized that the two were very very similar, as if they simply shot some new videos, re-wrote some dialogue, and plugged these new elements into the same structure. Overall, it was as if Transition was merely a continuation of Disinformation. And with someone with a presence and a voice and a mind as commanding as Reggie Watts, I left simply wanting more.
But (and this is a big "But"), that is not to say it's not worth your time. If you haven't seen this man perform, you really should buy a ticket now. But if you already have, you might want to hang tight until Watts and Smith come up with something new.