The Flea's Bats Take on an Antitheater Classic
The theater critic isnt always a popular person, and we have been called a few names in our day. But neverat least to our faceshave we been dubbed you savages, you rednecks, you hatchet men, you subhumans, you fiends, you beasts in human shape, you killer pigs. And what did we do to earn this opprobrium? Why, we merely attended an evening performance of the Flea Theaters revival of Peter Handkes 1966 play Offending the Audience.
When the piece debuted, Handkes provocation may well have been controversial, even offensive. The script gleefully tears down the fourth wall, narrowing the gap between audience and performer. It also takes the theaterwhich the cast insists on pronouncing thee-ah-terrras its subject. This is no play, the actors say. We show you nothing. . . . We dont tell you a story. We dont perform any actions. We dont simulate any actions. We dont represent anything. And then there are all the insults.
The 20-odd young performers, members of the Fleas resident theater company, the Bats, are an attractive, black-clad lot. Taking turns, they recite the material with some force, but their forays into the audience to confront individual viewers inspire more giggling than affront. These kids seem much too nice-looking to really mean us or the conventional theater any harm. Even when they call us cookie pushers.
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