Lost in space

Gulliver doesn't travel well at Con Works.

AMONG OTHER EDGY, fantastical pleasures at Consolidated Works, Meg Shiffler has curated an engagingly screwy, Poplike exhibition in the art space, complete with a giant wooden beaver. I mention this to assure you that outside the confines of the organization's theater, there is some creativelife. Its world premiere of Gulliver's Travels, meanwhile, is like watching something die for two hours.

Gulliver's Travels

Consolidated Works ends December 3

A lot of clever people who should know better—directors Jennifer Jasper, Scot Auguston, Juliet Waller, Shawn Belyea, and David Russell—should be off somewhere in the corner humbly hanging their heads before moving on to better things. They've each tackled a section of Jonathan Swift's classic (Belyea and Russell team for the last) and "adapted" it into what amounts to a profane improv exercise, rendering the source almost completely obsolete.

Nonsense needs to have a foundation in sense if we're going to have a good time goofing on something that's actually deadly serious. The directors are making fun of something they haven't even established. On what basis are we getting an evening of boob jokes and scatological high jinks? Auguston gives us his popular, randy shadow-puppet routine as though Swift was just a grand opportunity for giant tits. "When you speak the thing which is not," we are told in one piece, "there is no understanding." Well, yes, exactly.

No one seems to have "directed" at all, assuming that a big part of directing is keeping your actors from making asses of themselves on your behalf. Some potentially funny people are betrayed. Joshua Parrott manages his way to a few laughs as a smarmy Gulliver in Waller's piece (which randomly finds the hero host to a cooking show), and tucked into the edges here and there are other quirky, promising voices. Everyone's working so hard that you start to feel embarrassed for them.

The Belyea-Russell piece, which puts a Shatneresque Space Captain Gulliver (Mark Dias) on a distant planet, has a whiff of something satirical, although I'm afraid "whiff" is the right word: The thing degenerates into an excuse to offer us someone's lip-syncing butt cheeks. This isn't subversive fun—it's pointless desperation.

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