By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
During a two-hour romp through the story of his life, Curchack also plays a dozen percussion instruments, two recorders and an African thumb piano; screams at the top of his lungs; does some Tuvan throat-singing and a little jazz scatting; makes shadow-puppets for a Punch and Judy show; twirls an imaginary parasol while impersonating the prostitute in London's Soho district with whom he tried, but failed, to lose his virginity; recites sections of The Tibetan Book of the Deadand the Bhagavad Gita; whispers lines of poetry by William Blake; discourses on the principles of Gurdjieff-Ouspensky; pantomimes a lizard, a crow, a wolf and an eagle; prowls the floor like a panther and roars like the mountain lion that attacked him during a spiritual quest in redwood country back in the '70s.
Curchack, a longtime presence on the Dallas theater scene, defies definition. In his offstage life, he's an artist, actor, writer, director, composer, loving father, college professor and ardent student of various Eastern philosophies. In his show, he's part Spalding Gray, part Lenny Bruce, working blue and yakking till he's blue in the face about his journey out of the "little blue-collar cul-de-sac in Queens" where he grew up.
Glimpsings continues at Undermain Theatre through April 27. Call 214-747-5515.
He has had some remarkably far-flung adventures. He's smuggled hashish. He's studied the art of "poor theater" with devotees of Jerzy Grotowski and sat at the feet of several famous swamis. Sometime around the Summer of Love, he narrowly avoided being intimately interfered with by a scary redneck truck driver with whom he hitched a ride west.
Using evocative language and his rangy, expressive limbs, Curchack throws himself full-bore into Glimpsings, which he calls "the world premiere of me playing me." Whirling through his show like a caffeinated dervish, he gives the audience more than mere glimpses of who he really is. And in his writing, there are sparks of brilliance.
Talking about his childhood shyness, he recalls going to a grammar-school dance and trembling with fear at the "prepubescent band of Bacchae" facing him across the floor. A happier memory finds young Fred pleasuring himself to a Life magazine spread featuring dancers from the Broadway cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
A lot of funny, odd, fascinating things have happened to Fred Curchack on his way to the stage and this stage of his life. But watching him act out so many personal highs and lows, it's hard to tell whether he's a daring performer willing to bare his soul for the sake of artistic truth or merely a middle-aged nincompoop in love with his own voice, working out a lifetime of "issues" before a paying audience.