Presented by and at Performance Space 122, 150 First Ave., NYC, March 10-27.
The house lights don't dim for playwright-director Young Jean Lee's "Pullman, WA." Pete Simpson—one of the show's three performer–co-creators—steps on stage in the guise of a hesitant, spacy-eyed motivational speaker. For several minutes he spews a rambling, halting presentation aimed at teaching the audience "how to live."
Then Tory Vazquez takes over. As if speaking at a kindergartners' story hour, she launches a narrative involving unicorns and a troll. Before long, though, she's addressing individual audience members with concise diagnoses of what ails them:
"You have made a series of incredibly bad decisions," she tells one spectator. "You are incompetent," she informs another.
Third and finally, we get Thomas Bradshaw, a preacherlike fellow who begins with the announcement "I'm an angel of the Lord!" It's a short trip from that to the revelation that he once hoped his penis would morph into a turtle.
The monologues eventually give way to a sort of theatrical chamber piece in which the trio of performers confront not only the audience, but also one another. There's chant singing of nonsense syllables. There's more imagery involving unicorns—and rainbows and puffy clouds. At one point Vazquez informs Simpson that he is "on a spaceship made of donkey balls." Vazquez finally closes the proceedings with an elaborate description of mutilated mermaids.
Of course, all this absurd blather elicits some easy chuckles. And the three spirited performers are expert improvisers. They're so quick on the uptake that when audience members walk out in midshow (as they did at the performance I saw), you half wonder whether the deserters weren't in fact planted by the author-director.
You may also wonder what on earth anything you've witnessed has to do with a university town in eastern Washington state called Pullman. But don't even think of raising the question.
What are you, incompetent?