ArtAttack’s Seeing Myself Consumed

Rationed pleasures in a grouchy holiday meta-show.

Upon entering ArtAttack's cute new space, you will be required to sign a contract. The print is too small to read, and the page is completely covered with it. The gatekeeper explains that the contract requires you to stay for the entire next hour and 45 minutes, then leave immediately afterward. Welcome to performance art, where even one's basic right to walk out on a show is challenged. Who is the customer/king here, anyway? As one-third of the whole audience the night I saw Seeing Myself Consumed, I can attest it was not me. But that was OK. In fact, it was refreshingly, if a bit affrontingly, different."I don't want you to like me," snaps Natalie Saxon, the grouchy lead artist in the show (created by Meggie Doyle and Brendan Mack). The evening's loose conceit is that Saxon is a "serious issues" performance-art diva whose producer/manager (Mack) is pressuring her to jazz up her act with Christmas references, songs, and other seasonal schmaltz. But this narrative framework intermittently dissolves into a dizzying onslaught of concept-driven ensemble numbers performed by a supporting cast of eight. These include singing, dancing, free association, outlandish "facts" about high-fructose corn syrup, interpretive dance, anti-consumerist activism, and spoofy moments of wallowy self-indulgence. Themes are pretty darn muddled, but that seems to be the point.The attractive and talented cast maximizes the in-the-moment entertainment value of these seemingly random vignettes. Pleasure is strictly rationed by the show's authors, in calculated resistance to a whole holiday "story." And the portions are sometimes enjoyable. Highlights for me included atonal cello music with high-voiced male accompaniment, a pantomime of O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," a scene of iPhone cult worship, and the one occasion when chronically cranky Saxon breaks into a smile (while getting jiggy with the corniest song in the universe). But hey, don't get too comfortable: You will be evicted promptly afterward, per the terms of your contract.

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