Downtown Robot Meets South Pacific Mishap in The Jester of Tonga
The Jester of Tonga, Joe Silovsky's multimedia performance piece about human frailty, mints a new, non-human star. Silovsky explores his obsession with a News of the Weird tale, a story that broke in 2001 about an American businessman, Jesse Bogdonoff, who secured the title of Court Jester of Tonga and whose financial dealings somehow lost over $20 million of Tongas money.
Silovsky meanders around P.S.122s downstairs stage with a geeky nonchalance; at one point, he says, Im going to need a minute to set up for this next scene, then turns on a jazz record while searching through various suitcases and assembling low-budget wonderssmeary overhead projections, pop-up dioramas, toy theaters. About 20 minutes into the proceedings, he summons his co-star, Stanley, who plays the role of Bogdonoff.
Stanleys a winning, kittenish robot, fitted with a head that swivels, eyes that roll, a mouth that opens and closes, and legs, arms, and fingers that twitch and shudder. He brings a strangeness to the proceedings, but also a measure of gravity. His presence seems to quiet Silovsky, allowing him to proceed with his narration. Stanley also offers a much more sympathetic portrait of Bogdonoff than most human actors would. Rarely has a mechanical performance seemed such a delight.
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