Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Performer's personal 'rant' trumps his art


Theater review

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It turns out an artist can be too close to his material.

        Performance artist Tim Miller opened the second season of alternative performance series alteractive at Playhouse in the Park Monday night, playing to an SRO crowd in Glory Box.

        He happily — and accurately — defined it as a “rant.”

        The subject that has sent Mr. Miller into frustration, rage and despair is a U.S. Immigration law in regard to gay partners of other nationalities.

        A “glory box” is the Australian term for a hope chest (his partner is an Aussie), and Mr. Miller has the notion that such a box should hold the things one hopes for. As a gay growing up in the United States, he says he rarely got them.

        Mr. Miller is a charmer with a sly delivery, and the strength of the 75-minute solo performance were his plugged-in pop culture commentary, his acute observations on being gay and trying to be a grown-up male (there's a very funny riff on learning to say “I love you”) and a political stance that earns cheers from the liberal-leaning. (Mr. Miller's position on gun control is that only lesbians should be allowed to have guns because they wouldn't shoot.)

        Mr. Miller, who looks so California he could have been a regular on Baywatch, re-visits his childhood where we meet his mom and her fake chinchilla bolero jacket, his favorite breakfast cereal hero (Count Chocula), his Lost in Space lunch box and his 9-year-old first love, a second cousin of Richard Nixon. (The romance was doomed.)

        He takes us on a tour of the present, which includes a gay pride celebration in Montana with many members of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation stopping by. And he regularly visits a nightmare future where he and his partner are forced apart.

        The problem with Glory Box is that Mr. Miller's mind isn't on the art, it's on his bruised heart.

        He's clearly a wonderful movement artist, but his movement was sparing, although he has a stand-up comic's gift for working an audience.

        The entire show felt calculated, from the way he worked hard to infuse comic lightness into his political manifesto to the few minutes of what can only be termed “obligatory nudity.” (“I am a performance artist, therefore I must get naked.”)

        Alteractive continues 7 p.m. Mondays through April 1. Call 421-3888 for a schedule of performers or visit www.cincyplay.com.

       



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