A theater experience always includes, at a minimum, you and a performer. Ideally, you both emerge transformed.
It doesn't get much more perfectly bare-bones than Dodging Bullets, a one-man show by ASU prof and local theater artist David Barker. In 65 minutes on a nearly empty stage, this apparently average middle-aged guy takes you through his interior and exterior life so far, spiraling out from and obsessively returning to one indelible moment in 2004 -- when his brother-in-law tried to kill Barker and his sister.
When Barker embarked on the sabbatical that was to result in Dodging Bullets, he and the university had agreed that he'd develop a show that was "more personal and revealing" than his solo work up to that point. He knew he was turning 50 soon and worried that nothing that had ever happened to him was worth presenting to an audience. Life, as it tends to do, picked that summer to raise the stakes and provide him with a story he's compelled to tell.
David Barker is a professional mime, a fight choreographer, a trained classical actor, and a teacher of stage movement, among other talents. You'd be hard pressed to find another arts practitioner in the Valley (or maybe anywhere) who knows more about the use of the instrument that is the human body, or who has more access to physical range and control, as well as an understanding of how perception, thought, and emotion dovetail with the body's systems.
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But Barker's a human being, too. It's fascinating to watch as he portrays his struggle to deal with the impact of the violent, traumatic event on himself and his family. While it's probably extra-interesting for his fellow artists and for other survivors of violence, it's an evening that everyone can relate to, largely because of Barker's clarity and humility as a performer and Ben Tyler's sympathetic, pinpoint direction.
When all of the well-crafted loose ends have been pulled together and Barker takes his bow, all he's really revealed about himself is that he meets the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD and that his faith in God is a positive, powerful force in his life, helping him become a better artist and a better man. But considering what Barker and the audience have just been through together, that's enough for now.
Dodging Bullets continues Friday and Saturday evening, April 17 and 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the ASU Lyceum Theatre on campus near Forest and University in Tempe. Tickets are free, first come, first served, and parking can be tricky, so plan to arrive early.