Squeaky-voiced Neo-Futurist Jessica Anne (no last name for a reason to be revealed) has created and performs a provoking mash-up of memoir and performance art, a solo show, with two people, barefoot wearing white shirts and ties, about growing up with her troubled mother.
In the Neo-Futurist ethos of real people playing themselves, doing what they are really doing (“thank you, Greg Allen, may he rest in peace”), she is joined by real life friend Mike Hamilton to create a narrative of deception, trauma and the difficult and ongoing navigation toward normalcy on a sparse set consisting of a pair of microphones, a table and two chairs (where they interview an audience member, one of several beyond the fourth wall interactions), a puppet theater featuring twinned Lambchop dolls, a ghost light, and a claw-foot bathtub full of water, along with tiny towels given to audience members as they arrive.
Amidst a constant flow of fog (from “a box labeled ambience”), the pair spin a 90-minute story of Jessica Anne’s unusual upbringing by an ill mother, with the type of illness at the core of the consternation and mystery, cleverly and comedically spliced between scenes of Marsha Norman’s Night, Mother (for which they pay rights by tossing quarters into the tub).
Jessica Anne’s writing and delivery is a fun, frenetic stream-of-consciousness, mostly lists of feelings and snippets of stories pouring out like the water with which the two fill the tub from an upstage cooler.
“I’m just nervous,” she says. “I was born in New York.”
Mike replies with his coming-of-age in Virginia, and his first exposure to guns by squirrel hunting with his friend Brad, the squirrels then being fried and eaten, tasting greasy and oily.
This Jessica begins to compare her story to that of baby Jessica, the little girl trapped in a well, in addition to the national consciousness, for three days, and how their respective ordeals scarred them for life, externally and internally.
Jessica Anne is not a biographer, she says, but a fiction writer worshipping at the altar of dramatic realism, the kitchen sink drama. She willfully acknowledges the facts are unspooled through her own skewed filter: “as least that’s the way I remember it,” she says.
She grapples with finding the right forum and length to tell her twisted tale–how can she fit all her peculiar details into 1,000 words for the Rhino Fest, or should she tell of her mother’s manipulations on a broken unicycle for Redmoon.
Jessica Anne does know that she does want one of the “alcoholic apologies” from her mother, she wants to turn “emergency into emergence,” and she desires to “kill that thing I’ll never have under the tarp.”
The gifted storyteller provides a provocative narrative, which falls a bit flat at the end with too many questions, yet resolves into an uneasy ending underscored by the closing music “Que Sera Sera.”
Jessica Anne is on the road to “whatever will be, will be” and audiences should join her on this quirky, quizzical, mélange of a journey.
Mike Mother runs through June 4, at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Tickets and information are available online or by calling 773-275-5255.