ONE-MAN APOCALYPSE NOW (Chris Davis): 2016 Fringe review 38

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Who but Chris Davis would even think of a ONE-MAN APOCALYPSE NOW? It starts static. A prone Chris copies the slow movements of Martin Sheen and lip syncs the opening of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 mega-movie Apocalypse Now. Sheen as Willard, a Green Beret assassin, has been sent up the Mekong River to assassinate Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who’s gone off the rails. You know you’re in Chris Davis territory when he begins dispensing priceless asides. He plays the actors playing the roles—Robert (smell of napalm) Duvall, spaced-out Dennis Hopper, young Larry Fishburne, Harrison Ford—adding Philadelphia actor Ian Merrell Peakes as Chef, a popular soldier. He samples the iconic music:the Doors’ “This is the End”, “The Ride of the Valkyries”, and even “Susie Q”, where Chris entertains the troops as a Playmate, dancing “suggestively” in fatigue pants and bikini top.

Diving into an aggregate of movie scenes, he runs them into each other. Although the movie drips with atmospherics—smoke, fires, dark, lights, noise and unrelenting helicopter sounds, Chris communicates a zany nightmarish feel in a comic performance with only sporadic recorded music and maybe one helicopter sound, in a brightly lighted room with white walls. It’s not an evocative space, but minimal production values are offset by off-kilter charm. The show doesn’t have much sense of a river journey, but it’s definitely a trip. At the end of the movie Brando ruminates on horror and moral terror. At the end of this mashup, Davis as Brando philosophizes: “I ate a Cheesesteak. I asked for cheese and they called it wiz.” And “Sometimes when the heart gets conflicted it eats its own heart out.” A big part of the fun is recognizing characters and scenes. If you haven’t seen Coppola’s original, watch it on your screen at home then come see the show.

Is Davis a genius or a nut? I suspect the answer is “yes.” [Heart of Darkness Warehouse, 5213 Gray's Ferry Avenue] September 9- 24, 2016;  fringearts.com/one-man-apocalypse-now.

 

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About the author

Kathryn Osenlund, theater and film junkie, is a former National Critics Institute fellow, NEA fellow in Arts Journalism, and member of the American Theater Critics Assn Steinberg and Osborn playwriting awards committee. A Barrymore Award nominator and professor emeritus in communications and theater, Kathryn also writes for NY-based CurtainUp.com. On twitter @theatrendorphin.