Theatre in My Basement's PHX:fringe show might not be the same show I saw Sunday, March 4. Or it might be the same. That's because, according to the company, whether they present Twitch or Eclypse [sic] or Kassandra depends on "the whims of the audience and the performers."
Now, the other audience members and I did choose a show, after brief introductory remarks from TiMB Founder Chris Danowski. The short film called Eclypse is the one of the three titles that we apparently saw Danowski mouse over to and select in the Fringe folder on what appeared to be his laptop display projected onto the wall of Modified Arts. But even if all that was as it seemed, it's possible that all three films are identical. I'd wager they aren't, and it doesn't really matter, but these guys are tricksy, as Gollum would say.
A shell game is an apt analogy for the piece(s), in any case. Eclypse's spelling suggests it might have etymology in common with one of its main characters, Calypso, who was a nymph of Greek literature and mythology before she was Davy Jones' girlfriend. The root of the word "eclipse" is translated by the dictionary as "to leave," though, whereas Calypso and "apocalypse" (which I'm sure came to my mind with the approval of TiMB) share the root "to hide." (The Apocalypse will be the un-hiding of things that are currently hidden.)
Anyway, Calypso kept Odysseus/Ulysses on her island for seven years while he was on the way home from the Trojan War. Or so the story goes -- if I'd been gone seven years, I might tell Mr. Curtains a nymph had kept me against my will, too.
In the film, there are several scenes of Calypso (Portia Beacham) and Odysseus (Danowski) in modern dress, hanging out and talking by the shore. There are also scenes of Beacham having repetitive, interview-style conversations with other people about love and sex, clips of Sailor Moon dance breaks, and frames of text that recalled, for me, the clever PowerPoint presentations that have been a TiMB hallmark for as long as I can remember.
Some of the text narrates parts of Calypso and Odysseus' story, while some seems tangential. A lot of it is funny, and it's always interesting to hear laughs travel around a crowd based on reading speed.
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It's an arty, dreamy, well-shot and -edited film that could stand alone, but the live cast adds an important element to the performance. They greet and ritually purify the audience and the space and then sit behind the computer during the film. They make it impossible to ignore that they're there watching you watch.
Live art at its best is a ceremony, whether the practitioners and the audience acknowledge it or not, and Twitch/Eclypse/Kassandra forces all present to acknowledge the sacred, whether you choose to honor it or not.
Twitch/Eclypse/Kassandra continues through Saturday, March 10, at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt Street. Admission is $10 at the door, or call 602-254-2151 or click here for tickets in advance. See the full PHX:fringe schedule here.