San Francisco

Joe Goode Performance Group

Theater Artaud

Sigmund Freud said that the study of dreams was the “royal way.” Joe Goode would probably agree. His multimedia reverie (incorporating text, movement, music, and dance) is about what it’s like to be dead. To illuminate this question, he relies on the logic of dreams. The result is very affecting and very funny.

The author of Remembering the Pool at the Best Western, 1991, offers himself as protagonist. In the first act an alter-ego from beyond the beyond, manifested as a demented big-haired harlequin, mimics his every gesture, while asking a series of rhetorical questions about the afterlife to which the answer is always: “No. Never. Absolutely not.” This parallelism, which occurs throughout, is not confined to movement; indeed, being dead seems very much to resemble being alive. True, the palette may be reduced to the monochromatic, still we remain in a sensual sphere. The dancers, clad in vaguely religious saffron-colored costumes, portray the dead with an admirable degree of extension; they are awfully lively for dead people. The text asks about someone who died of AIDS: “Does he need a friend?” and concludes that he does. One can’t argue with dreams.

And yet this work seems to conflate the dream state with the bardo. Goode, sitting in a spare evocation of the diminutive wading pool at the Burbank Best Western, dressed in loud bathing trunks and swim goggles, sponges water over his head. Thus he recreates an out-of-body experience in which he learned that dreaming and being dead are alike. One is reminded of Brion Gysin’s The Last Museum, 1986, in which the Tibetan Book of the Dead is reenacted by the inhabitants of the infamous Beat Hotel in the rue Git-le-Coeur in Paris.

Midway through the production, a station break of sorts ingeniously denies denial. An incantatory voice intones: “There is an enemy inside me saying he doesn’t want to know what it’s like on the other side.” Frankly anthropomorphizing conflicted feelings—the enemy—is the tried and true way to catharsis, which is what this drama is all about. At times, banal incidental music suggesting the score of a George Coates production threatens to undo the effectiveness of this work.

If Charlemagne Palestine and Jackie Curtis had a child, he might have been Joe Goode. Indeed, he recalls Curtis physically. Alternating the spare with the stagey, the gesture with the gag, the campy with the compelling, this work is most strongly recommended by its tempo.

Dean Rolston