Mr. Natural and the geisha doll

A potential that comes with staging a performance at a storefront art gallery, especially one that faces onto the still-untamed strip of Del Paso Boulevard just above Arden Way, is that people who aren’t exactly in the cast may wander in and insert themselves into the performance. I use the word “potential,” because the outcome depends upon how an impromptu performer’s contribution is handled—one derelict with a head swimming with white port and cheap biker crank mixed with half-remembered jeremiads from Nahum and Habakkuk can turn anybody’s coherent narrative into burnt toast in a jiffy. Or, if cast members are thinking on their feet, there’s a chance something weird and perhaps even wonderful can happen.

So when a well-lit geezer with a Mr. Natural beard stumbled into a performance by the four-member Elephant Graveyard Group of its original multimedia production Sex at 18 Frames Per Second: Reflections on Obsolescence at MatrixArts last Friday evening, an expectant hush fell across the small audience. Courtney Sinclair, the actress whose blocking had carried her to the edge of the dozen or so people seated in folding chairs, was mid-soliloquy when Mr. Natural—who’d caught a glimpse of her blonde geisha ’do through MatrixArts’ plate-glass window—opened the door and gargled something that sounded like “I really wanna lay with you.”

For a moment Sinclair was taken aback, but Mr. Natural was too far gone to hold his own in any improv; after a few beats and zero encouragement, he left. But Sex was the kind of show where it might not be out of the ordinary for such a character to be written into the script.

Which did include a broken Japanese doll, a twisted war correspondent à la Christiane Amanpour questioning why tinfoil-hat theories aren’t taken seriously, a guy whose face was covered with mud who was wearing an old suit and clutching a microphone by the riverbank, an amnesiac ad executive remembering how she perverted art to sell shoes, a man whose face was wrapped with alien tubing, a woman ranting on the street. The latter, by Meghann McCracken, nearly knocked a freewheeling bystander off his bicycle.

If some of the text sounded familiar, it’s because it was, well, sampled. Sinclair, McCracken, Chris Cromwell and David Trisko stitched together snippets from a number of sources into an episodic narrative that, overall, delivered the kind of punch that knocks people off bicycles.

Sex at 18 Frames Per Second continues at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, April 11-12 and 18-19, at MatrixArts Space, 1518 Del Paso Blvd.; admission is $10; for reservations call 497-0107.Jackson Griffith