Kent’s Theatre Battery continues its tradition of staging challenging theatre with excellent productions and free admission. Deep Purple Wiggle runs through September 10.
There’s a lot of pressure to be special right now
I can’t tell if I have imposter syndrome or if I’m just an imposter
Are we not allowed to try things?
Smash the trinary
Premiering at Theatre Battery in Kent, Deep Purple Wiggle is among the weirdest 65 minutes of staging I’ve seen.
And that’s exactly what I needed right now.
The play, a brand new script from Milo Cramer, flitters happily in and out of hyper-realism. Structured in a series of largely two-person vignettes, it kicks off with fly-on-the-wall conversations in quick-fire delivery, like setups ripped from your old marbled Intro to Playwriting notebook. From outside looking in, we’re dropped in the throes of something, mid-conversation, beginning with a succinct declaration: “I’m non-binary.”
Or course it’s not that simple. The statement unleashes a whole cascade of interrogations in various forms, from the intimate to the familial to the accusatory to the politically correct. No one has the right thing to say. Everyone has questions, and they want answers.
The brilliance of this play is it doesn’t try to give answers, and it doesn’t want you to, either. Whatever you think you know — about relationships, about straightness, about queerness, about identity, about performing your own identity or telling people how to manifest theirs — Deep Purple Wiggle wants you to feel free to ask, examine, and explore.
Fueled by an excellent ensemble and direction from Artistic Director Logan Ellis, Theatre Battery’s staging gives it the perfect setting to do just that.
The whole thing vibrates from dreamlike to realism, aided by an ethereal mood-setting harp. And then there’s the water stage: a shallow pool that covers the expanse of the playing area, save a narrow pool deck that surrounds it, where actors splash around and occasionally submerge. The water is rarely a part of any setting that makes sense for this story. Instead, it keeps us suspended in something of a fantasy land, even as the conversations get too real.
But Cramer is a clever dialogue writer, and there’s plenty of humor packed within the exchanges themselves, too. The play manifests a keen sense of knowing where the mildly absurd is just enough to elicit a quick hearty laugh where we need one, even while poking at a deeper truth. When a character asks about this weird new non-binary fad, It’s not a fucking Tamagotchi! comes the reply. A ride share driver gets way too personal before turning the tables in an unexpected way. A gender exploration group facilitator is totally obnoxious, in a very familiar way, before the whole conversation thuds. The latter is a poignant reminder that shortfalls can be just as intersectional as identities can — and are best resourced as such.
Although the show is “about” two siblings, or gender, or sexuality, or masculinity, it’s really about these interactions and intersections. They’re heightened but deeply personal. Explosive. Funny. Ridiculous. Familiar. The insecurities, identities, and search for answers all flitter around at center stage, but the staging makes it fun and unexpected. Deep Purple Wiggle may be set in a sort of dreamland, but its reminders run deep into reality.
Run time: 65 minutes, no intermission.
Performed by Emon Elboudwarej, Donato Fatuesi, Matt Lockett, Ronan Pirkle, Pyper, Malex Reed, and Douglas Ridings; with Ellie Yamanaka (harpist). Scenic design by Nick Ponting, lighting design by Cricket Neiss, costume design by Meg Powers. Full program here.
Deep Purple Wiggle runs through 9/10 at Theatre Battery in Kent. Tickets are free (donations welcomed), here. Accessibility notes: nearby restrooms are the public ones in Kent Station (mall), and are gendered and multi-stall; theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.
Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.