Review: A Matter of Taste by FronteraFest
by Michael Meigs

Playwright Bastion Carboni has some good ideas but he gets in their way. There are five ingenious skits in this Long Fringe entertainment but he has the mistaken impression that an audience will be as interested in the creative process as he is.

Jenny Keto (ALT photo)Carboni has actress Jenny Keto preface the evening with a confused, swaggering but finally non-helpful appearance as "the playwright." And at the end of a pretty enertaining evening he brings on the director(?) and others for an egg-timed 3-minute wrap-up with comments. Most insightful of them: "Andrew (Varenhost) acts too tall!"

Let's call those hiccups of the creative process. 

More of interest are the five "black-out" pieces. 

  • (ALT photo)
    A morose young man, Warren (Varenhorst), would like to commit suicide but  is too inept or clumsy to do so. I shivered when I saw Andrew put that tool up under his chin and get ready to tap it home; but once interrupted by his girlfriend Babs (Kira Matica) and then her buddy Bernice (Liz Watts), he eventually gives up and disappears. The heart of the skit is the two women bitching back and forth at one another about flipped-out Warren and why Babs puts up with him.
  • The skit that must have provided the main title involves a young woman (Kira Matica) finds her nutso friend Larry (Adam Glasseye) standing over a prostrate figure covered by a blanket.  Larry is delighted by the prospect of having this dead body for dinner.  Larry recruited his dinner with a personal ad, checked him for AIDS, and is ready to go. The bickering between him and Matica shifts gradually from the impossibilities of the concept to the practical details. Since the figure under the blanket was Varenhorst, we in the audience were left confused as to whether this was Scene Two or a completely unrelated sketch. The outrageousness of the concept made it very easy to laugh; once one accepts the idea of casual cannibalism, why shouldn't one quarrel over which baking pans to use and how to prepare the meat? Glasseye was manic and crystal clear; his partner's apparent agitation at his ideas at times overrode her diction, so we missed some of the jokes.
  • An expressionistic piece introduced by another "playwright" intervention brought us Jen Brown vomiting paper flowers and writhing about the stage. Not so funny, but an acceptable exercise in Dada.
  • A couple of horny teenagers climb a mountain top for private business and find a prospective suicide (Glasseye) about to throw himself from the cliff. They question him and he patronizes them, showing a calm rationality completely out of keeping with his announced intention. Of the five sketches, the least convincing. If the man is sufficiently stressed to end it all, his behavior with the visitors just didn't ring true -- or funny.
  • Andrew Varenhorst, Jen Brown (ALT photo)In a sly little piece Varenhorst as Marc and Jen Brown as Sadie are revealed in bed with one another, as Marc's girlfriend returns to the apartment. They spin stories for her, asserting that they're brother and sister and that they love to have sex with one another. Girlfriend reacts with appropriate horror and eventually storms out, and then we (and they) are left to sort out the truth of the relationship. I initially had trouble deciphering the relationships myself and I wonder if the text made their allegations to the girlfriend sufficiently explicit. There's a nasty, delicious little moment at the end when Marc turns down an offer that few rational men would refuse (considering that it comes from Jen Brown).

There's a core here of irreverent, smart alecky writing that delivers a good time on stage. The sketch format doesn't allow much character exposition, so we're provided jagged humor tied to the incongruities of the imagined situations. I'd like to see the playwright go long next time, moving his characters through plot and through change, Why is Marc fixated on escaping commitment? Why is the young woman in his bed willing to play the scene for him? And what happens next?

Interview of Bastion Carboni by Dan Solomon published in The Onion's Austin Decider, January 26, subtitled "Tastes Like Contempt for the Audience"


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A Matter of Taste
by Bastion Carboni

January 25 - February 01, 2009
Blue Theatre (now closed)
Springdale Rd and Lyons
behind Goodwill warehouse
Austin, TX, 78702