I want you to leave aside your usual expectations concerning plot and character development. In those departments not much happens in Sunrise. Curtain times drift with the seasons, and it’s difficult to know exactly when the performance begins and when it ends. These problems aside, Sunrise is surprisingly moving.
At this morning’s production, the lighting design was the best I have ever seen—a black silence like death gives way to an all encompassing soft grey light. Cats are seen in some urgent business; a car here and there. The light itself seems to stir up distant memories of mornings from some forgotten life.
And here I think is the true subversive genius of the piece: with the set inhabited only by muffled cars and padding cats, the character of yourself seeps onto the stage, as if the play was staged for you alone, as if the sun—93 million miles away—breaks through the earth’s magnetic fourth wall and grabs you. It doesn’t demand you change or do battle. It brightens until it is day and the show is over, and you go about your business unable to shake the feeling that you have spent too many of your precious hours fast asleep.
Brilliant staging to hide the main action of the play in a back room, all but invisible to the audience, viewed only through a picture frame: a clue to those in the know to take notice, to abstract what you see here as though it is a living painting and infuse it with meaning; a history of one man’s life told through frantic cooking.
Kirby is the name of the cook in this production at the Homeskillet restaurant. Bearded and spectacled, this whirling dervish of a man cooks a thousand plates a day—gourmet gut-bombs piled to absurdity. To say the food is a bonus is to understate its role in the visual and gastronomical spectacle.
Kirby is at its heart a dance piece. The Sisyphean parade of breakfast orders seems almost nightmarish, but through Kirby’s cool, efficiency of movement, through his complicated juggling gestures, this nightmare is transformed into ballet. The history and travels and tragedies of Kirby’s life, countless days in countless kitchens, all present in each double armed sauté.
Schizophrenic Man on Railroad Ave
As solo performances go, this is one is not for the faint of heart. I entered this performance without knowing I was even doing so, and suddenly the title character was walking with me stride for stride. He spoke to me (it was one of those pieces) with great urgency about something a woman told him about the imminent destruction of the planet, and even though in retrospect what the character was saying was clearly insane, there was something about his familiarity that made me, for a moment anyway, trust him… then he turned to me and put his hands on my shoulders and said, “I know Al Gore. Al Gore is an effing space alien.” And the trust was gone.
Schizophrenic Man on Railroad Avenue is a piece that will challenge your view of the world and yourself. Though I can’t say I laughed during the actual performance, it is the type of play that with a little distance and perspective is retrospectively hilarious.
I have seen this performance a few times and it never fails to delight me. It comes to you first in song. Rossini or Puccini or Mozart. A strong tenor carries across the air in a sudden burst. Your first thought is that it is amplified out of some shopfront speaker, but a hundred thousand years of auricular evolution tell you the sound is in motion. Then you see him: a cyclist of slight stature, singing. That same auricular wisdom refuses to let you make sense of such a powerful sound coming from such an unimposing commuter. As he goes, the song fades, though it stays strong for blocks to come, around corners, through streetlights, through alleys now unseen.
Largo al factotum della citta
Presto a bottega che l’alba e gia
Ah, che bel vivere, che bel piacere!
Handyman of the city
Early in the workshop I arrive at dawn
Ah, what a life, what a pleasure!
Sunnyland Elementary School
The parents gather just to the side of the school playground, looking like petitioners to some royal court, or a flock of seagulls waiting to be fed. They watch the empty blacktop as if expecting some profound event that for minutes does not come.
Finally, children burst into view, walking with their teachers like drunk soldiers around a beloved general, voices drifting on a chattering wind.
Children are matched to parents like the worlds most gregarious hostage exchange. One spots me with wide eyes and a toothless grin and charges with a barrelling headbutt into my belly.
With five performances a week, I have been many times. Though the ritual never alters, each performance is filled with subtle changes that put the focus on the ritual itself—these small daily reunions that will all be forgotten, distilled into the vagueness of memory. Though perhaps I’m wrong: perhaps the variations put the focus on detail, on things that will never be the same; that light right there on that mother’s head, that wild grin running toward me, never-to-be-the-same and someday-soon-forgotten.
Street with No Parade
It is the same street as always, with nothing memorable about it, but the small boy we walk past yells, “Stweet with no pawade!”
And after that you can’t help but feel that something is missing.