Dream of a unified art theory
The Hunt for LaSalada
That offbeat and avant-garde group at the Pink Toupee Collective pulls out all the stops in this wacky and wild pastiche of visual art, film, nonlinear Web narrative and cabaret-style stage production. In short, they’re attempting to prove that they can juggle genres with the best, and for the most part, they succeed.
The central conceit is one of interdimensional travel (hence the wacky part, although the Web site contains some rather oddball interpretations of quantum mechanics in support of the endeavor). Franc Fontaine-Bleu (Jack Hastings), the huge, blue-eyebrowed leader of the expedition, is a Belgian curator of antiquities, oddities and fragments of the Automatic Wasteland, the alternative universe the explorers visit.
His crew is made up of LaRosa Rota-Scopa (Linda Melvin, who is one helluva singer), “Cell” (the Celluloid Scholar, played by William Fuller), the Yard Sailor (Jeff Madow), Penny Arcade (Maureen Gaynor) and Lady Marzipan (a “humanzee,” hybrid chimp-woman, played with nit-picking detail by Jane Hastings). Although the fourth wall is nonexistent during the performance, at no point do any of the players break character, which leaves us unable to pierce the curtain of stagecraft.
And that is exactly the point, as this wily collective has proven: There is no separation between the various arts; neither are reality and imagination fully discrete.
The Web and film portions of the production are intended to be viewed prior to the visual arts and stage components. The Web site, www.fontainebleu.info, has a variety of sections which provide snippets of information about the explorers and their trek. It also includes a portion of the film, LaSalada, a silent movie that tells the story of the humans and the automatons in the land that became the Automatic Wasteland.
The visual-arts component of The Hunt for LaSalada is a display of artifacts, supposedly from the Automatic Wasteland. They are a collection of pieces by local artists—members of Pink Toupee—that are all three-dimensional, constructed as elaborate shadow boxes. Many of them contain moving parts or screens, a further layering of the automaton motif. This reviewer was particularly taken by Exhibit No. 6, “Whiskey, You’re the Devil,” which features a nautical scene to accompany the shantylike drinking song, and Exhibit No. 18, “Sentimental Journey,” which is unveiled to the song of the same name. The latter includes an autographed picture of Doris Day, which, if genuine, is worthy of envy.
Each exhibit is introduced as a “dream” by Fontaine-Bleu, and is accompanied by a song as part of the production. The styles of music are as varied as one might expect from the mash-up of artistic genres and are accompanied by the Brown Study Orchestra under the direction of Gary Sears.
This is a thought-provoking and attention-demanding piece of work, but it is also well-done and worthy of both thought and attention. What’s more, it is not complete when the curtain falls. Additional sections of both textual narrative and film will continue to be posted on the Web site, making The Hunt for LaSalada a work in progress.
The piece is a thorough collaboration of a large group of artists, musicians, writers and actors; as much a community project as a show. That it succeeds so well is a testament to the quality of community the Pink Toupee Collective has created.