Monday, June 02, 2008

The Splasher

Never underestimate the power of a can of oops paint pointed in the direction of some savvy successful street artists’ newest work. Troy Schulze’s new play, The Splasher, lets loose a can of militant art worms at DiverseWorks, with the second offering of the newly formed Catastrophic Theater.

Schulze has a penchant for gleaning juicy stories from the real world. Really, why make stuff up when you have ticking bomb world out there feeding you choice material. As a key figure at Infernal Bridegroom Productions, he contributed Jerry’s World, culled from transcripts of the cult radio guy, Joe Frank. Me-sci-ah drew from archival interviews with science fiction writer and founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. It’s downright fabulous that Catastrophic Theatre continues to nurture Schulze’s idiosyncratic talent. He’s good with found text and he’s picked a blistering hotbed of controversial events for The Splasher.

The real Splasher rose to media attention in 2006 by defacing street art with thrown paint. He hit hard and often, and at the top rung of the commercially viable street art crowd, splashing the self-confessed masterworks of Caledonia Curry (aka Swoon) and Shepard Fairey (aka OBEY). The Splasher attempts to re-invent the rules, which gets under the skin of these street righteous artists, who claim the territory as their own. Nothing infuriates artists like other artists making money. Look what happened to the late Keith Haring who dared to make a living selling T-shirts and other goods. Art and money have always made suspect bedfellows. Art as a commodity has always been a hard pill to swallow for the holier-than-thou art church. God forbid artists make a buck in this world.

The Splasher includes actual manifestos that reveal the workings of his very perturbed brain. Schulze’s own portrayal of the dark lord himself, complete with a Darth Vader-like voice is both creepy and effective. Walt Zipprian turns in a completely convincing performance as the self-important OBEY and other characters. Zipprian is a hoot defending his right to sell limited edition T-shirts at his big New York opening. Jenni Rotter, Julie Boneau, Joe Fallodori, London Ham, and Mike Switzer all add their share of punch as well.

Schulze uses a gigantic screen that helps tell a visual narrative and lends a up-close look at the Splasher’s handiwork. Tim Thomson’s superb video work charges The Splasher with a strong visual rhythm and is nicely matched by Chris Bakos’ vibrant sound design. The bare naked DiverseWorks space provides an authentic setting for both the issues and the play. The Splasher’s themes are timely and well worth putting in front of an audience. I bet many a lively chat occurred on the way home. Still, in the end, the play feels unformed, a bit rambling, and at crucial points, sketchy. A side story of Michael Fay, a kid that gets arrested in Singapore for vandalism, doesn’t quite find a home.

The Splasher ends abruptly, but isn’t that they way it goes in real life?