Friday, January 20, 2006

The opposite of television

If you can't feel shit, you can't do shit. I think Confucius said that.

- Michael Aronov in Manigma, his ballsy, inspiring one-man show.

Aronov is a great actor who completely transforms here again and again -- from a hard-edged drag torch singer to a just-off-the-boat iron-pumping traditionalist (and Aronov has to guns for it), to an ecstactic prison visionary to an autistic man tearing up napkins while sitting on the toilet missing his mom. And on and on.

The six characters represent, Aronov says, exagerations of facets of his own personality, but the real point is life is amazing and needs be seized, not only with both hands, but with feet and mouths and butts and whatever else you've got.

If this sounds like a recipe for self-indulgence, do not fear; Aronov the writer is as artfully provocative as Aronov the actor is artlessly mesmorizing. When he moves, you find yourself saying, "Oh. So that's what bodies are supposed to do. I get it now." And he's somehow just as good when he's still. Best of all is when he's piercing the audience's comfort zone -- taunting, teasing, flirting, scolding, challenging and exhorting.

But mostly sharing, in the best sense of the word, his soaring electric thrill at being alive with you, on this night, in this room, in this moment. This is what theater should be and so rarely is. This is the opposite of television.

Disclosure: OK, yes, I know the guy. Even did a show with him once. (He was better than me.) But still. This is the most exhilarating piece of theater I've seen in long long time. Too long.

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