Spotlight: The Believers

Jim Bovino

The Believers begins with an unnamed bearded man (Ben Kreilkamp) sitting in the dark at a desk. He flips on a lamp, stares into the void of the audience, then flips it off again. By the time he's done, he's turned the light on and off about a dozen times. It seems like a throwaway gag, but little is done without intent in writer/director Jim Bovino's new abstract performance piece by Flaneur Productions. In this case, Kreilkamp's flip-switching represents an initiation from darkness (spiritual, intellectual) into illumination—a metaphor that may serve for the piece as a whole. The six-person cast proceeds to tackle 15 vignettes that deal with, in rough order: the yearning for transcendence in myths about the past, our reality as mediated by movies, the secret stores of symbolic information hidden within every city, and the dead end of our socially constructed identities. There's a skeletal plot that filters in and out, with a glamorously acid secret-agent type (Barbara Meyer), who dispenses cryptic quips to a priest (Jeff Broitman) and a befuddled young man (Don Mabley-Allen). Kreilkamp returns again and again to address the audience, until eventually we begin to gather that the one-two punch of his oration and the disorienting action represents what Kreilkamp's character calls an "education in objective insight." Bovino is working with heady and philosophically charged material here, and he deftly steers the ship around from metaphysics and allegory to social commentary. Still, the show's discrete elements resist being fused together. And despite the skilled and enthusiastic performances, one feels as though The Believers has taken a shot at a lofty vision and fallen short. The view from the heights is always so tempting, though.

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