Despite the fact that the Tweedster has always erred on the side of curmudgeon-ness, I’ve of late been making light of my age, that birthdays come and go without much fanfare (in an existential sense of mortality vein), while smaller milestones, such as my dogs' aging another year, or noticing I have further to go on the ticker when I enter my year of birth of an online form, take on greater significance.
Well, add another item to the Search for Lost Time: performance trajectories. I’ve been lucky to see a wave of companies really create a name, an aesthetic, and a place for themselves in a larger community, most palpable and personal for me in the form of Radiohole. I’ve often written about them, have admired them from day one, and was struck at the giant departure (and, to my mind, maturation) in their previous piece, Anger/Nation. It seems that Radiohole, known for their rowdiness, drunken antics, and performance of excess, turned a bit more inward, with Anger/Nation representing a more patient, nuanced, and ultimately moving direction for the group.
By the same token, violent waters run deep, and the new Whatever, Heaven Allows (WHA?!) at PS122 sees a small swing back to the havoc we love so. 100% Radiohole is the meshing of 1950s melodrama, via Douglas Sirk’s ridiculous All that Heaven Allows, and Milton’s Paradise Lost in an unholy union that pokes fun at consumer culture and its cooption of everything from home electronics to the commodification of romance. The neo-nostalgia represented in the love affair between Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman is already a dizzying array of permutations: the romance of the Heartland, the conflict between cultural and personal desires, the incredibly twisted play of sexualities (the safety of the “good guy” versus the mystery and passion of the outsider, the ideal of machismo in the homosexuality of Hudson), and the incredible play of religious construction of family, values, and the greater good that Radiohole plays up with Milton’s melodrama of the Fall.
The group is brilliant at treating the soft-focus world of Sirk simultaneously with reverence and satire, with heartfelt monologues about comfort, love, and home interrupted by violent, id-like interludes of Bacchanalia (witness the celebration of excess in the group’s sake party scene—disturbing and delightful, returning to a similar gorge-fest in Radiohole Is Still My Name). At the helm is a video-monitor command center, reminiscent of a sailboat’s wheel, where each member gets a turn at navigating the fallacy of “free love.” And, of course, there’s an over-sexed deer.
The usual suspects of Erin Douglass, Eric Dyer, and Maggie Hoffman only reinforce their brilliance as performers, not just creators, and are aided by fair-weather friends Joe Silovsky and Mark Jaynes, who are both committed and a riot. It’s strange to imagine that I would wonder whether the rock ‘n’ roll of Radiohole would remain a good thing after Anger, but it does indeed in its wonderful messiness, albeit more measured messiness.
But perhaps most jarring, and I have to mention this, is that the days of crap-beer-for-crap-beer’s-sake have come and gone. No longer is the alcohol solely for the spirit and abandon of the Radiohole aesthetic. No: the PBR has gone institutional with the “Beer for Babies” program, in which the company politely, and with a wink, asks for a donation for the beer, “to raise money for our babies and baby-Mamma and Daddies to join us on the road.” Holy shit am I getting old.