No Rules: Terrifying Subliminal Messages in Suicide, Inc.

Denizens of No Rules’ ‘Suicide, Inc.’ talk blissfully of death and potlucks.
(Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

No Rules Theatre Company’s name is the most astounding case of deception since Delilah cavorted with Samson and ate his hair. They have one very distinct rule, a rule they display as prominently as the red lights of Amsterdam’s soiled doves. Their one rule, my dear readers, is to confound and flummox Xander Strange with every artistic breath they exude.

Well, excuse my language, but may the hairs on their derrieres turn to hammers and beat them slowly to ruin!

My confusion began upon entering the theatre. There were four seating areas set around a white playing space. “Where on earth am I supposed to sit?” I exclaimed at full volume. A filthy hobo wearing a shirt that said ‘Arena Stage’ informed me that I could sit anywhere. “You mean I’m supposed to choose?” I replied aghast. “Yes, that’s the idea, it’s up to you,” my unwashed interlocutor said smiling. I silently shook my fists and gnashed my teeth at him for several minutes before a No Rules peon told me to sit down as the show was about to begin.

I found a seat, somewhere, I was lost in a fog of rage and darkness. I mumbled to myself ‘What the hell is happening? Where am I? Why do they hate me so much?”

The lights blasted on, bright as the sight of a thousand suns. There were men onstage, lots of men, too many men. They all seemed sad. And angry. And constipated. They talked of suicide. And notes. And dead people. I realized, quite profoundly, that I had entered hell. Not some artistic representation of the 9th circle mind you, but quite literally the abode of the beast. I grabbed the patron next to me by the hand, and began to nibble on their knuckles, only to realize there was no one sitting next to me. What . . . the . . . fuck . . . ?

I tried to follow the plot as the men rattled on about hallmark cards, and a company that helped people write notes for suicidal patrons, and ghosts, and cupcakes. They yelled. They cried. They wrote. They smelled. There were pieces of paper taped to the walls (I had assumed they were part of the set) and as the manic flatulence of the play careered ever onwards, they seemed to grow and encroach upon my person, deepening my ever-increasing sense of dread.

My palms began to sweat, my brain began to burn, and I started emitting rattling noises from my esophagus. A male prostitute sitting behind me said ‘Can you please be quiet?’. I pulled a pen from my pocket and wrote on my program ‘Shut your face, you malignant sloptart!’ It was then that I truly noticed the title of the play plastered on the front of the program: ‘Suicide, Incorporated’. I couldn’t believe I had been so blind. Clearly No Rules Theatre Company was trying to get me to kill myself. Every word, every gesture, every aspect of this experience was a call to end it all.

I began rearranging the letters in ‘Suicide, Incorporated’ and to my horror another cruel missive from the No Rules horde: ‘Suicide, Incorporated‘ became ‘O Son, I’d puree a critic!” (forgive my poetic liberties with punctuation, the message remains clear).

At this point, the scraggly hippy in the play was crying about his missing or dead or ugly wife, I’d lost all sense of the plot. And ye gods, my hands began moving towards my throat as the play begged me to choke the life out of myself. Zounds, it was winning, kind readers! Good lord make it stop, tell that Joe Isengard to stop talking, tell that Spencer Trinwith he’s really tall, tell Joshua Morgana I’ll do anything he asks of me . . .

Thankfully at that moment the play ended.

After the curtain call, in a final moment of treachery, one of the lead actors revealed himself to be none other than Brian Sutures, the co-artistic director of No Rules Theatre Company. He seemed very pleasant but quickly turned into a beggar speechifying about being poor and hating America. I just held up my middle fingers all through his treasonous diatribe.

I stormed out of the theatre into the blazing heat of a June afternoon, gasping for breath, tears streaming from my eyes like a person who’d made the ill-advised career choice of being an onion grater.

No Rules Theatre Company? More like SATAN RULES Theatre Company!” I screamed to the heavens, and was swiftly knocked to the ground by a passing Capital Bikeshare cyclist.

0.35 out of 1 star

The Strange Talks: Kathleen Akerley

kathleen akerley (artistic director) and someone.

Rumor has it that Kathleen Akerley is the artistic director of a local theatre company, Lung Acres, Lee. Apparently they produce cerebral work with a physical flair. This sounds vaguely communist so I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this nonsense once and for all. I sat down with Ms. Akerley at a local antelope farm. What transpires is probably not for the weak of stomach or heart. You have been warned.

– – –

Strange: You are the artistic director of Long Ache Her Lee, can you explain what you artistically direct and who gave you permission to do such a thing?

Akerley: My permission such as it is derives from the Right of Discovery and Conquest.  I direct people repeatedly to do things they spontaneously did without my direction, and then take the credit for their inventions on ‘opening night.’  It’s artistic because I’m wearing a smock.

Strange: So, unlike the cruel dictators of old, you are comparable to the shrewd diplomat directing your actors with a cunning smile?

Akerley: Thank you Mr. Strange!  I thought the most apt comparison was Jabba, inert and bloated and greedily feeding off the labor, and reptiles, of others!  In a smock!

Strange: My impulse was to compare you to Jabba, but thought you might be offended being compared to an individual eventually chain-strangled to death by their bikini-clad slave. I should probably also consider the impact of comparing you to a vile alien slug, but I’m truly not that thoughtful. Do you ever eat your actors?

Akerley: I once tried to make Jason Lott into a kabob but he resisted and the impulse passed.

Strange: Moving on, if you could re-direct one famous moment in history which would it be and why?

Akerley: I would direct the nurse to dip the soldier in the famous kissing photograph instead of the other way around.

Strange: Playing against type?

Akerley: No, just so it would look less like a lusty yin yang symbol.

Strange: That’s the conspiracy! It was a daoist photographer?

Akerley: Leaving messages of balance, duality and battery all over our media.

Strange: Okay . . . Ghana?

Akerley: If only its desire to develop a wind energy program was matched by its actual winds.

Strange: No, I was just asking if that’s the name of a real place, sounds funny when I say it out loud.

Akerley: That’s because you mistakenly pronounce the N.  The N is silent.  It’s supposed to sound like you just accidentally sipped some too-hot tea.

Strange: I do often find myself exclaiming “GHANA!” when sipping my oolong. With hot soup it’s “LAOS!” Do you like soup and tea?

Akerley: When they’re YEMEN-good.

Strange: If you had a christmas calendar, a single men’s sandal, a spinning top, and a shark tooth, where are you?

Akerley: A dollar store in Miami.

Strange: Would you buy anything?

Akerley: The lava lamp, duh.

Strange: Correct answer. A dollar for a lava lamp is an incredible deal! Would you like to take a Miami road trip?

Akerley: Count me in.  We can bring a u-haul for all the kitsch we score.

Strange: What is your production this summer? On a scale of 1 to 14 how much will I hate it?

Akerley: It’s a new play called Goldfish Thinking, and I anticipate you will hate it at exactly the same numerical setting as ‘simmer.’

Strange: Is it about small, delectable cheesy snacks and our perpetual desire to consume them?

Akerley: Inasmuch as a murder mystery set in a woman’s dreams is merely Freudian imagery for that most basic of human appetites, yes.

Strange: I hate goldfish and Freud. Do you have time to change it to another snack and psychoanalyst?

Akerley: Un-Jung Rings it is.

Strange: On that note, how would you describe our relationship?

Akerley: The reason I get up in the morning.

Strange: Does that make you sad or hungry?

Akerley: Hungry, always hungry, and living under the curse of hating cheese, so, like the Ancient Mariner, I wander with a wheel of gouda around my neck telling about our relationship to anyone who’ll listen.

Strange: I’d listen, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose. Or I could eat the gouda, being a particular fan of rotten milk products.

Akerley: Please walk before me in life eating all cheeses before I can see or smell them.

Strange: No

Akerley: . . .

Strange: Ahem, would you prefer making people forget how to ride bicycles or the personal ability to turn into an envelope?

Akerley: Envelope!  It would finally give a purpose to the irritating gummy strip that runs down the side of my left leg.

Strange: Really? Wouldn’t you prefer that when people say in reference to activities, “It’s just like riding a bicycle” you could respond knowingly with, “Oh, really?” This is your final chance to take back your hasty answer!

Akerley: My flaps are sealed.

Strange: But I want to know what you . . . oh . . . an envelope joke. You cunning stoat!

Akerley: You should see my standup Stamp Act.

Strange: You’ve convinced me! Well, thank you Ms. Akerley for taking part in this brutally revealing interview. This Summer I look forward to decimating any fragment of creative confidence your troupe of roustabouts might have left in them.

Akerley: With all due respect to Jane Horwitz, this has been the most edifying interview of my life.

Strange: I know, please leave now.

(lengthy pause)

Readers, please see Goldfish Thinking at Longacre Lea beginning performances in August at the Callan Theatre in the Catholic University Drama Complex. This is Ms. Akerley’s recommendation, not my own.

– – –

Learn more about communism and the show at Longacre Lea’s website.

‘The Illusion’ at FORUM THEATRE conjures demonic forces!

Hide your children, though it’s probably too late. Photo by Melissa Blackall

In my illustrious career as an arts critic I have yet to see such a brazen display of chicanery as ‘The Illusion’ at Forum Theatre. Often I found myself exclaiming: “How on earth . . . “, “Spawn of the devil . . . “, and “Buh . . . “. This cadre of fiends sent me to worlds no human should ever see, at least not for a second time . . . I will not go back, no matter how hard you try!

Under the direction of Mitchell Heeber, the proceedings start disgustingly enough in what appears to be a circus ring out of a Bolshevik’s wet dream. Matters only get worse when Elijah Wood starts performing magic tricks. I think it was Elijah Wood anyway. I could feel the collective soul of the audience being stolen before my terrified eyes.

The story is simple: Productmanagement (henceforth ‘P’) has murdered his son who has 9 names, so he visits a Sorceress with a penchant for mutes. They don’t have very much to talk about, so they decide to watch a movie. The movie they watch is eerily similar to P’s life, and he gets sad. Calista Flockhart is in love with Melanoma, and Clinto is in love with Is Able. There’s also Matt Amor, Lies, and Drastic, but why they’re in the play I couldn’t tell you, I was crying tears of blood by that point. Everyone dies at the end, there’s several orgies, and a song about ‘malleable clay’ (and I think we all know what that means!).

The actors are abominations directly from the gates of hell: Nanna Ingvarsson plays David Blaine and made me and several other audience members (hopefully) wet themselves several times with her demon magic (where did they find a real life necromancer?). Brian Hummingbird plays P and sounds like Louis Armstrong swallowed Leonard Cohen (his sonorous tones will haunt my nightmares). Mark Halpern has gigantic hair, he should share some of it with those of us who have none. Brynn Tucker plays Mulberry and tries to deceive us all with her sweetness (it won’t work, you malevolent succubus!). Gwen Grassoff played Mother Theresa as a scandalous lady of easy virtue, she punched me repeatedly in the throat with her words. In the throat!!!

Who else? Joe Brack plays a  late 70’s porn star with a sword and a sash. Scott McCormick plays Stalin. And Aaron Bliden plays Hamlet. But they can all rot for all I care, because they also played 7 other parts. I would find myself thoroughly enjoying the fact that they’d left the stage, start to grow suspicious when a new actor would grace the boards, only to think “Now wait just a damn minute . . . “, frantically checking the program to realize Forum Theatre had tricked me once again!

There were also lights, sound, and costumes.

Forum Theatre, you devious sons of bitches! ‘The Illusion’ is not a misnomer, you successfully fooled me, making me believe as you no doubt intended that I was seeing a delightful play only to take me hostage to the deepest bowels of a demon’s lair! This was slated as a story of love (just a keen disguise for rampant prostitution) and laughter (just the terrifying echoes of Satan’s glee).

This was a fascinating examination of my greatest fears, for there is nothing that causes me more worry than multiple personalities, deep voices, and Elijah Wood.

This was superior to having my brain consumed by 10000 centipedes, but only slightly.

7.67 out of 37 stars.