|Homo File. Photo by Gary Ivanek.|
We had dinner beforehand at our usual joint, which sadly has a new owner and appears destined to lose that designation, despite the fact that we've had many fun times there and the bartenders still take very good care of us.From there we walked through the Tenderloin to CounterPULSE at Mission and Ninth. The place was already pretty crowded and it turned out to be an almost full house. The theater appears to be built inside a former auto garage- the walls are built of those large industrial bricks and there seems to be little ventilation. The place is, to put it mildly, quite warm with a full house inside. Whirring ceiling fans made it tolerable, but also produced a steady buzz.
Homo File is a work in progress by Seth Eisen about the life of Samuel Steward (1909-1993), a self-identified "invert," college professor, queer smut author, friend of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, favored tattoo artist of the Hells Angels, and counted Rudolph Valentino and Rock Hudson among his hundreds of conquests, all of whom were listed in his detailed "files."
Clearly a labor of love, Eisen's work uses live actors, film projection, puppetry and more to create a vivid portrayal of fascinating person, performed by Ned Brauer. Brauer, whose physical presence and agility adds a few extra layers to Eisen's carefully-hewn script, is a compelling performer to watch, even as Eisen keeps the entire performance space busy during most of the performance. There are multiple things competing for the attention of the audience's eyes and ears during a majority of the performance, which would reward repeat viewings. At the conclusion Eisen came in front of the audience and said he's not finished developing the work, which he's been at for two years. As it is right now, it's well worth seeing and one can only be interested to see how it develops in the future. The supporting cast, most of whom had multiple roles or assignments, all contributed to the whole without any weak links: Elena Isaacs, K. Lisette, Rich Hutchison, Diego Gomez, and especially Michael Soldier, who gets to portray both Stein and Alfred Kinsey.
Fuck My Life is a solo performance piece by Xandra Ibarra, aka La Chica Boom (NSFW). The program notes contain a rather academic description of what it's supposed to be about which reads like something written by a 2nd year Queer Studies major. Ibarra's a bold, fearless performer, and truly fascinating to watch, but her "spictacular" is hampered by lengthy sequences that cross over into self-indulgence and an overly-loud soundtrack (unless feeling her pain is also meant to be something the audience feels on an auditory as well as emotional level, in which case it succeeds grandly). There was much scattered laughter during the show, much of it coming from female audience members, but it sounded nervous or intended to make sure that those around them knew they "got it." Though I'm ambivalent about the work, I don't think I'll ever be able shake a bottle of Tapatío sauce ever again without thinking of Ibarra.
After the show there was a talk across the street about Homo file at the Center for Sex and Culture featuring Eisen and Carol Queen (after the September 28 performance there will be one for Fuck My Life), but we skipped that, and walking back to the Swede's antique Volvo we came upon Niagara Falling, the latest from Flyaway Productions unfurling itself upon the side of the Renoir Hotel at Market and Seventh Streets. This was a fortuitous stroke, as I had wanted to see this and had forgotten to schedule it in. It was quite beautifully done and if you get a chance you should see this well-executed outdoor aerial/video/musical piece that's hard to describe but easy to feel. It was an added pleasure to find the peripatetic Axel Feldheim amid the audience
When it was over, the Swede went his way and I went mine. I thought I was in for the night, but at around 10:30 I received a phone call and it turned out I wasn't. But that's another story.
Homo File and Fuck My Life will be performed at CounterPULSE at 8:00 PM through September 30. Tickets start at $20. Niagara Falling will be performed at the corner of Market and Seventh streets at 8:30 and 9:30 on September 28 & 29 (free).