John Fleck Blows in With Mad Women


There are gale-force winds with less vigor than John Fleck displays in his dynamic, discursive solo show Mad Women. Though Fleck recently turned 60, he displays the same manic drive and confessional intensity that made him a popular target during the culture wars of the 1980s. As he speeds and stumbles around the small stage of the La MaMa café space, he resembles a one-man whirlwind. Slumping into a chair to catch his breath, he asks, “Don’t ya’ feel like a tornado came out here and just sucked the oxygen right out of the room?” Yes, you certainly do.

Mad Women’s script is also something of a twister. Fleck begins the piece lip-synching to a bootleg tape of Judy Garland performing at the Cocoanut Grove perhaps a year before her death. Fleck stays just a beat or two behind the music, rather like Garland, whose pre-show ritual included uppers, downers, and several martinis to wash the pharmacopia down. But a few songs in, the action switches to video of Fleck’s mother, a longtime Garland fan, afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Fleck draws a few parallels between the two women, but soon veers off toward his disastrous appearance in a childhood talent show and a more recent stint playing a lizardlike creature on an HBO drama. Rather than joining these discrete elements, Fleck offers the piece as a crazy quilt whose pattern never quite coalesces. Perhaps he doesn’t want it to. He seems content to carom around the stage, eyes wide and arms splayed, happily creating his one-man weather pattern.