In this dizzying descent into a whirlpool of fragmentary thoughts and ideas, actor and visual artist Will Bond makes it perfectly clear from square one that it’s up to audiences to create their own meanings. The verbal maze has been gathered from the writings of avant-garde director Robert Wilson. Attempting to find the focus of the monologue is a daunting task.
“Bob” begins with a self-aggrandizing autobiographical sketch of the Texas-born Wilson, who “has worked at the largest theaters in Europe with the greatest actors.” While he is best known for his controversial operatic productions, he longs to do a “normal” opera at Milan’s La Scala. The narrative quickly digresses into a surrealistic and philosophical observation of light, time and space. “Time is a vertical line, and space is horizontal,” and somewhere in between Bob, obsessed with a search for knowledge and truth, attempts to find some meaning in his life.
At one point, the actor pours and drinks a glass of milk. The slow-motion sequence lasts several minutes and seems like an eternity. Pretentious intellectual diversions into past and present include a study of clouds, pedestrians and automobiles moving at varied speeds, a fleeting survey of the boundaries that dominate the world stage, and a gushing nod to Marlene Dietrich.
The most amusing anecdote is related late in the short program. At an airport layover, the director sits at a bar minutes before takeoff and discovers he has mistakenly dropped his flight ticket into a mailbox, instead of the picture postcards he was sending to friends and family back home. For a brief moment, one is engaged by the rambling narrative, but the anecdotal insert serves little point and lacks a punchline.
Bond moves stealthily, often freezing like a street-corner mime. He frequently accents a caustic barb with a mocking grin and invests his character with the lofty attitude of smug superiority.
Anne Bogart has fused Wilson’s words and Bond’s quirky performance into an elusive mixture of pop and highbrow cultures. On a bare stage, against a white brick wall, and sandwiched between massive banks of blinding spotlights, Bond occasionally moves a chair and a table from one corner to another. These are the sole furnishings on the stage, and it comes as great relief to see the chair arrive at the position where it began. It summons the comforting notion that the end is near.