By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The best aspect of the Trinity Shakespeare Festival's productions this summer is their location inside the well air-conditioned Hays and Buschman theaters on the TCU campus. It's bad enough to weather three hours of blank verse, but risking heatstroke doing it is far worse.
Low-budget is too generous a way to describe 14 Death Defying Acts: An Autopsy on Hunter S. Thompson, an hour of disoriented spew written and performed by Matthew Posey at his 40-seat Ochre House grotto near Fair Park. Posey founded Deep Ellum Theatre Garage in the 1980s and seems to be stuck in a time warp where "experimental theater" means using crude video, loud rock music and rough-hewn dialogue spoken by actors who've spent a good 15 to 20 minutes rehearsing.
In a glimpse at the later life and writings of the founder of "gonzo journalism," Posey's one-hour performance (interrupted by an unnecessary 15-minute intermish) depicts Thompson, who killed himself in 2005, as a drug-crazed, mumbling stumblebum (accurate enough probably) living in beer-can-strewn squalor. Narrating words as he types, which makes for slow, choppy talk, Posey's Thompson gets up only to go on imaginary road trips with cohorts Gonzo (Xander Aulson, drowned out by the insistent musical underscore) and Leach (Kevin Grammer), and son Juan (Ross Mackey, who along with Aulson is a member of the surf-rock band Astrochrist).
When the bed shapeshifts into a car, that's original and fun. Hanging penlights on twists of wire around their necks to light up their faces in the dark, that's cute. But the song about how much fun it is to beat up a woman, with the girl played by a naked blow-up doll? Not funny, not cute.
"Autopsy" is an appropriate word to describe this thing. It has all the charm of a crime scene.