Dishwasher (Orange County Tour)
Created by Brian Feldman
Feb 13, 2017
A Private Residence
It’s a nice night; the sort Floridians dream of all summer. A full moon, clear skies, no mosquitos, temperate breezes. We’re off to a private performance at a discrete private residence. The usual scenesters are already there: a writer, a festival producer, a dancer, a fabric artist, some actors and even a mechanic. We’ve met for the latest Brian Feldman Project: “Dishwasher.” I ate before I arrived, but others were downing vegan tacos and stiff rum drinks. Conversation flowed: a man proposed a Fringe show about changing brakes and charging other people to watch him. Another negotiates a show rating for an upcoming festival; it’s a delicate balance on whether Florida teens can stand sock puppet rape or if their parent’s heads will explode. You know, the usual argy-bargy.
Feldman remains based in the DC area but currently relaxes on sabbatical in Florida. Feldman pitches a project to me, I pitch one to him. It’s just what we all do – think Big, and try to get others to do the work. Feldman reports I’ve covered his shenanigans over 30 times, a truly shocking statistic. More drinks. More tacos. More fever dreams of theatrical profits. More stiffrum drinks. Pass the gluten free whatever…
Tonight’s concept is straight forward yet oblique: Feldman is here to do the dishes, then grace us with a cold reading of a monolog he’s not seen. The collected experts then jointly which activity Feldman executes best. Dishes are piled up but they haven’t fossilized and the worst thing Feldman looks forward to is some wussy baked-on cheese. Feldman has seen worse, been paid worse. The crowd pulls up chairs, leans against walls, searches for beer in the fridge as Feldman powers up. Like many performance artists, he’s done a stretch or two professionally doing dishes. It’s the epitome of our elder’s advice: “Learn a trade.” Feldman works quickly, accurately, professionally. The atmosphere is collegial. He takes technical questions on hydrohygieneology while telling stories of other “Dishwasher” productions. In other houses mountains of fossilized dishes confronting him. “That One Creepy Guy” invited him in and leers. One gig had a shower in the middle of a kitchen, an awkward situation at best. We learn what parts of Philadelphia lack hot water. We learn dreams of living in Philly as an artist is the life of false messiah.
As he works, our host interviews him, asking excellent questions. Feldman gives excellent, or at least interesting answers. He may be a dishwasher, but he’s also a performance artist. Soon the dishes are done; clean ones go in the dishwasher which stands in as a drying rack; putting in a soap pod and pressing a button would have destroyed the artistic integrity of the evening. Coffee and dessert? Why, thank you. No, black is fine. Tonight we are the Cool Kids, but can never explain why.
Dishwashing. I can’t believe I’m covering dishwashing. But in my experience with Feldman projects this is nothing, I’ve stepped out to cover him sleeping in the street, boxing with his father. I’ve rigged TV antennas for him, hit him in the head with a claw machine, and had him creep me out as a faux restroom attendant. It’s a weird sort of male bonding, but I don’t hunt or golf so what else do I have?
The second phase of tonight is the Cold Reading. Our host has selected a particularly challenging text; it’s Lucky’s speech from “Waiting for Godot.” “Godot” is a surrealist piece by Samuel Beckett and the ultra-marathon of theater: 2 hours of nonsensical text on a plain set where basically nothing happens. I’ve seen it at least three times. One was painful, one hilarious, once utterly sad but always …well… surreal.
Here’s the twist. Feldman can only speak when his head is hat-free. Our Suave Host gives him a tablet with his assignment and places a straw hat with a jaunty blue band on Feldman’s head, and we are off to the races. The hat comes off, and Feldman plunges into a long, nonsensical but very convincing monolog. What did it convince me of? That if you say anything loudly and confidently enough, you can make people believe you. As Feldman chews through nonsense scenery our Suave Host chases him around the room and through the house. It’s one of those doubly connected 1960s ranch numbers that pets love. You can flee in any direction. Feldman deflects, Suave Host attacks. Words fly from the foyer. Words echo from the living room. Syllables and examination point reflect from the dining room light, the kitchen, the closet. Feldman is cornered! Feldman escapes! A left! A right! A declarative sentence! An appositive! The hat attacks! Cover fire from the cat deflects a chapeau attack! The stuttering monolog makes no sense, but the performance does: Art is what you define it to be, and art is what you can convince a grant committee to fund.
The hat is on. The show is over.
Lucky is back in his cage, and it’s time to hang out, trade theatrical horror stories, dream up new projects, recall old friends. We have not changed the world, but we’ve made it worth living in. Oh, you have a 3-D TV? Cool….Let’s watch Deadpool!