You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, ” scolds an old wives’ tale. Who believes what old wives say, anyway? Performance artists Fred Curchack and Laura Jorgensen take these words to heart and sell the concept convincingly in their irreverent, thought-provoking 2012 stage production “Burying Our Father: A Biblical Debacle”. Now in its southwest premiere at Undermain Theatre through November 17, the ten character, two actor show opens on iconic Biblical half brothers Ishmael and Isaac bumping into each other, scimitars drawn, at the contested West Bank site “the cave of Machpela”, where each has gone to bury the shrouded body of their father Abraham. It’s a “what if…” of epic proportion, where the slapstick antics of the breezy, unfolding plot inspire belly laughs as they send out shock waves of somber reflection on never-ending Middle Eastern conflicts and the destructive nature of mankind. I’ll gladly down their well-chilled tankard of honey-brew with a chaser shot of vinegar; hand me a flyswatter to whack down all the pesky thoughts that follow, buzzing ‘round my head persistent as flies….
Of the seventy-seven original theatre pieces Fred Curchack has created, nine have sprung alive with his artistic partner Laura Jorgensen. Fred, Dallas-based, dreams up the shows and writes them; Laura, California-based, gives input throughout the writing and development process and enlivens the wide array of characters Fred create for her. Jorgensen works as a professional actress and director in California, much in demand. UT/Dallas professor Fred considers himself lucky when Laura can find time to do his shows. Together on stage they present a fine-tuned level of simple, sophisticated performance born of complete trust, focus and professionalism not easily matched anywhere. “Burying Our Father” feels playful and light, almost spontaneous, improvised. Don’t get fooled. Carefully choreographed with a tightly sculpted script, the play is a full immersion workout for both actors and a total joy to experience as an audience member. Fred claims he hopes his audience comes out truly awake and aware. Add energized, refreshed, entertained, illuminated and inspired to the picture, and you’ve grokked the impact. A white sheet scrim for shadow play upstage is the production’s only “special effect”. It’s all words, images and pure committed acting. The final moment is auditory, unforgettable, and a spine-tingling finish to drive home the sense of the work like a nail in the proverbial coffin. I recommend “Burying Our Father: A Biblical Debacle” with the highest of praise.
“Burying Our Father: A Biblical Debacle” runs through November 17 at Undermain Theatre. 3200 Main Street. Dallas, TX (between Hall & Exposition in Deep Ellum)
Tickets: www.undermain.org or (214) 747-5515
Photo by Robert Hart for Theater Jones