AFTER WATCHING A MAD KING THOMAS SHOW, I FEEL BUBBLY, silly, confessional, fleshy, young, cheeky, amused, and a little tired. I dont feel particularly analytical or critical. Love Me, Love My Questionable Art, in which the trio (Theresa Madaus, Tara King, and Monica Thomas) show solos for themselves and works created with a few guest artists, strikes me as good dirty fun, instantly accessible to anyone with a certain taste or tolerance for irreverence, and not really in need of second viewings or second thoughts. But its my job to analyze, so here goes.
MKT is funny. They make people laugh and hoot and occasionally lose it. They are funny every which way, in goofy Pythonesque absurdity, in slow-burning irony, in flat-out vaudevillian jokes; they are funny in their writing and their writhing. Most of all, theyre funny performers, with the chutzpah for just about anything. And their guest artists Sally Rousse, Hijack (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder), Galen Treuer have the same crazy charisma. All these people can make you laugh just by standing still on stage; Treuers blank innocence, Rousses staged insecurity, Madauss sullen deadpan all provoke immediate giggles. But, in general, they dont just stand still. Theyre more likely to be stuffing as much hard candy into their mouths as possible, or spinning in a circle, shouting I have sparkles in my underpants!
MKT knows the importance of detail. The shows lo-fi, lets-play-dress-up feel belies this, but look closely and youll see their talent for the perfect note or prop. King sets the tone for her Redneck Nostalgia with a plastic-and-metal fold-up beach lounger, sunflower seeds, and a Kum-and-Go cup she spits the hulls into. Madaus binges on not just any hard candy, but on Starlite Mints those crinkly-wrapped restaurant freebies, instantly recognizable with its green stripes, that are hard to imagine anyone voluntarily eating. Madaus hands Treuer a doughnut (cream-filled, of course) that must have come from the SuperAmerica across the street; later, Treuer frolics in a brown slick that looks like a lot of things, but which gives off the unmistakable sick-sweet smell of chocolate glaze.
Another thing I noticed about MKTand it's their weak spotis a bit of self-effacement, of modesty. And this is a strange word to use for a trio of women who sashay around topless, with only cardboard signs over their breasts.
How MKT whipped up such a huge amount of the stuff, where they found the perfect recipe (shiny, sticky, stinky), or what possessed them to do this in the first place, I cant answer. But its a great detail.
One more thing I noticed about MKT doesnt fit with the other twoits their weak spot: a bit of self-effacement, of modesty. This is a strange word to use for a trio of women who sashay around topless, with only cardboard signs over their breasts. But I see it in their title (why questionable?). I see it particularly in their work with their guest artists. Hijacks piece is witty and complex, with visual quotes from here and there, sly political references, and its faint suggestion of interspecies mating; but it looks like vintage Hijack. This is never a bad thing, but it makes you wonder where MKT fits in. The trio seems to have fallen under the spell of Sally Rousse, as well. I like Rousses magisterial art quotes (It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of artOscar Wilde) and her funny reaction faces (framed by MKTs synch-swimming legs); but the whole never goes far, never pushes Rousse into something new. Only Treuer, auctioning off a doughnut (and appreciating all schools of art, apparently), really gets into MKTs world.
My favorite piece of the evening, a solo for Thomas, shows MKT at their boldest (in several ways). In spite of the voiceover confession that the two halves of this dance dont go together (again with the modesty), they do. MKT flips from dream/sex/exhibitionism/gender politics to nightmare/violence/vulnerability/personal life in a sexy, funny, creepy, and ultimately affecting work. Thomas (MKTs resident sexpot) starts off showing off to Blondie in a red bra and Marie Antoinette wig; she goes out trembling, cloaked, pelted with snow, to Orffs famous chorus from Carmina Burana. The voiceover, sharing various horrible truths about Thomas, offers the curiously moving, horrible truth that she looks like a woman; She looks most like a woman, most revealed, not when she whips through a panty-free cartwheel, but when, at the end of the piece, her own hair comes loose from her wig and skull cap.
I get the feeling MKT doesnt know how good this piece is. No matter; theyre not starved for good work in this rollicking concert. But this piece shows a direction that, in the future, I hope theyll be bold in pursuing.
What: Mad King Thomas presents Love Me, Love My Questionable Art with Galen Treuer, Sally Rousse, and Hijack (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder)
Where: Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis, MN
When: Performances January 7, 11, 14 at 7 pm
Tickets: $8-$12 (sliding scale)