Why did the guy in the chicken suit cross the stage in "bobrauschenbergamerica"? The same reason two people made out on a gin-soaked tarp and a cheerleader zipped around on roller skates and the
entire cast enjoyed a picnic lunch on stage: to get to the other side of narrative and into something that tickles as it tests, as Anne Bogart often does in her joyous, willfully harum-scarum way.
The latest in a series of biographical works presented by Bogart and her SITI Company, "bobrauschenbergamerica" is more of a fantasia on Robert Rauschenberg's thought process than a look at his life or work. Set designer James Schuette engulfed the set with all sorts of bric-a-brac, in keeping with the artist's pioneering work in creating visual assemblages called "combines"; other than that, I'm hard-pressed to explain what any of it had to do with Rauschenberg. But it sure was fun.SITI actors have traditionally shown an extraordinary rapport with Bogart's off-kilter sensibilities, and this was no exception. Will Bond, the eerie Gian-Murray Gianino, and several other performers shone, and Ellen Lauren was first among equals. Her impeccable comic timing and exquisite physicality were invaluable in several set pieces.
Not every idea worked. The deranged-but-wise homeless guy is as much of a cliche in Rauschenberg's subconscious as it is anywhere else. And Charles L. Mee's script (itself a combine of his own words as well as those of Rauschenberg, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, and others) crept toward the pretentious on more than one occasion. But he and Bogart repeatedly pulled back from that precipice and found a surreal logic of their own.Rauschenberg's mother (the terrific Kelly Maurer) says at one point of her son, "You knew he was gonna go someplace. You just didn't know where." Bogart clearly sees that as a compliment. In "bobrauschenbergamerica," she lives up to that inscrutable, delightful challenge again and again.