downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 13 | August 11 - 17, 2006

Alt performances, brought to you by American Living Room 2006

Artwork by: Sean Doyle
Artwork for the show “Fox(y) Friends,” a collection of monologues that satirize the television show “Fox & Friends.” It ‘aired’ this week as part of American Living Room 2006, a multi-media performance festival presented by HERE Arts Center.

By Rachel Breitman

Four blindingly-white, saccharine smiles greet the audience. The grins are obviously fake, impersonal, interchangeable.

“It’s a business, bitch,” says television sports reporter Brian Kilmeade (Chris Gentile), describing the pharmaceutical and luxury car-funded morning news in Kevin Doyle’s short play “Fox(y) Friends.” Premiering at the avant-garde American Living Room festival, Doyle’s collection of monologues satirizes the television show “Fox & Friends.” The half-hour performance overlays the chatter of four morning news reporters, their demographically-tested banter culled partially from an advertising campaign that blanketed the subway system from 2004-2005. “Fox(y) Friends” fits perfectly into the festival’s title, evoking the talking heads that narrate the mornings, as perceived from American living rooms.

“All the anchors and reporters were clustered in ridiculous smiling poses,” recalls the play’s writer and director Doyle, 31, who teaches theater at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University. “I saw them every day while I waited for the train back and forth from work. And I started wondering what their story was behind the smiles.” He repeated, exaggerated and augmented the dithery dialogue of the morning show, while keeping the anchors’ real names.

E.D. Hill (Laura Adams), as the token female anchor, twitters like Vanna White on Valium, pitching jewelry and videos, as if on the Home Shopping Network. Black co-anchor Julian Philips (Varick Boyd) admits that he must protect himself with three, imaginary “force fields” to keep out the reality of being different.

Television news is by no means a new target for Doyle, whose 2003 show “Compression of Casualty” took aim at a real-life CNN broadcast on soldiers’ deaths in Iraq. What is so captivating about “Fox(y) Friends” is the way it not only mimics and mocks the blithe automatons of daytime talk, but actually finds pathos in their stories. Scott Miller’s aging patriarchal co-anchor hides from his own romantic and sexual problems with a child-like fondness for playing with Leggos and a 7:30 pm bedtime.

Doyle had seen a previous performance from the American Living Room festival based on interviews with Muslim detainees taken in for questioning in the weeks and months after the 9-11 attacks. Since then, he knew the now 17-year-old festival might be a perfect place for his own politically charged plays, which often include snippets of real- life dialogues that mock the media and pervasive American fears of terrorism. “I just felt that here would be a place to be open to some experimentation with the subject matter,” recalls Doyle.

But the annual summertime festival’s wide array of performances stray far from Doyle’s bare-bones spoken word style, adding puppetry, video displays, masks, and absurdist drama. The 30-plus projects in the 2006 series range in length from 10 minutes to two hours and include both seasoned and emerging performers, even a teenage troupe of singers, dancers, and monologists, chronicling their adolescent experiences in the August 28th production of “viBe!”

While August 13th’s multi-media display “WTC” has strong political overtones, others are homages to artists of the past, from Elvis to Bruce Lee. August 12th’s dancing acrobatic performance piece “Lee/gendary,” was inspired by the big screen martial artist. Other semi-biographical hybrids include “InSomnia/InSexton,” which combines audio-visual media with the poetry of Anne Sexton. The season culminates right before Labor Day, with a movement and dance piece entitled “Unfamiliar Comfort(s),” returning to some of Doyle’s favorite themes of the media, patriotism, and a society tranquilized by anti depressants.

Doyle says the diversity of productions drew him to include “Fox(y) Friends” in the American Living Room series. “I think it’s a warm, welcoming environment where people can try things out and not be crucified if it fails,” he said.

The American Living Room Festival, presented by HERE Arts Center, runs through August 30th at 3LD Art & Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street. For more information, visit www.3leggeddog.org.

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