bobraushenbergameirca is the love child of playwright Charles Mee and director Ann Bogart, and what a joyful happy child it is. A tribute to American Artist Robert Rauschenberg, Mee describes the play as “A wild road trip through our American landscape—in a play made as one of America's greatest artists, Robert Rauschenberg, might have conceived it if he had been a playwright instead of a painter.” Siti Company’s production is an altogether delightful and splendid event. Under the artful eye of Ann Bogart, cast and crew have created a dazzling spectacle, and just like on the best road trips, one surprise whizzes by right after the other. Playing at DTW, bobraushenbergameircais a collage of moments, a series of events some of which are related. It is an exploration of the art of life where everything is imminent; unexpected danger could be delivered along with your pizza, or love can show up in the face of someone you don’t even like.
It is not a biographical portrait. The first person we meet is Bob’s mom, played by Kelly Maurer. It is through her that we are introduced to her son. As she leads us through a collection of photos, what she describes is not what the audience sees. Bob’s mom, as narrator, is an unreliable witness so when she proclaims that, “art was not a part of their lives,” we have reason to doubt.
What is undeniable is the spirit, finesse, and charisma that fills the performance. Throughout the production, one can see a loose narrative of couples meeting, breaking up and getting back together again. The characters walk the line between reserve and release, between holding back and letting loose. Standout performances include Ellen Lauren as Susan and Will Bond as Allen. At one point Susan explains the difference between men and women while devouring a cake. “Women feel what they feel when they feel it and then when they don't feel it any more they don't feel it," she says. "Unlike a man who won't know what he feels when he feels it and then later on he'll realize how he felt and so he'll talk himself into feeling it again.” This episode is a moment of unexpected comic genius. Will Bond as Allen is magnificent. Elastic in his physicality, every gesture is larger than life and yet perfectly suited for the moment.
Ultimately that is the gift that is SITI company’s bobraushenbergamerica. Even in its exuberance, there is an economy and restraint. No moment is wasted and each episode is thoroughly satisfying. Bogart and her team tap into what seems to be an essential quality of the play—delight, and they infuse every moment of the evening with that feeling.