The Most Bizarre Children's Birthday by Chad Dembski
Talk, Mackerel playing at the Centaur Theatre’s WildSide festival is a completely unique, bizarre and absurd piece created by Sarah Segal-Lazar. From the first awkward moments entering Centaur’s Studio space an instant decision is needed to be made; to sit at the table on the stage or sit in the centre part of the audience. I chose to sit close but in the audience due to a recent bout of stomach flu but many audience members joined the table before the start. The invitation on the cover of the program is to Leslie Moira Duncanaine’s birthday party and the design of it all prepared me for something in the genre of childrens theatre possibly.
As the first high speed sugar-aided speech begins this young child seems to exist in her own world and has for a very long time. She speaks about the other kids at her school and the dangers of make up and after only a little bit I realize she is a little more than obsessed with death. Sarah Segal-Lazar is a one woman tour-de-force in this piece understanding the need to grab the audience from the very first moment. When Ali Andre Ali enters with a gigantic present for her, he quietly and slowly brings it to her with a smile and nothing else. There is a constant air of mystery around this piece that reminded me of the pleasure and frustration of building a puzzle. You know each piece is important but you can’t always see how and a dream-like time seems to take over the activity.
Above two portraits, Arthur (Jonah Carson) and Muriel (Amelia Grossman), speak to each other in another time and in British accents. They play cards and speak of the girl and her relatives, offering little clues about why she is the way she is. They also double as musicians and play beautifully along to the incredible songs which provide the backbone of the show. While I could not always connect the songs to the other content in the piece they were gorgeously put together and provide an emotional punch.
I fear I have given away a lot already about this piece in which its surprises are very rewarding and at 40 minutes left me craving more. Still this bizarre puzzle inside the mind of an incredibly complex girl is very much worth the effort on all fronts.