The sum of the parts of The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller, while individually interesting, do not add up to a satisfying whole in this transfer from Off Off Broadway last September to the Off Broadway Arclight Theatre where it will run through March 13th, produced by Dog Run Rep.
The real Michael Rockefeller, son of millionaire Nelson Rockefeller is the central character in this fictitious imagining of his mysterious disappearance some fifty years ago while taking photographs of the natives of Asmat a tribe in New Guinea, befriending them and collecting artifacts. He is played with dignity and understatement by Aaron Strand.
But the main character is Designing Man (Daniel Morgan Shelley) who narrates the story. He is an artist. An exceptional wood carver/sculptor that Michael comes in search of after seeing a photo of his work. Michael wants more. And he gets a lot more than he bargains for in this short play by Jeff Cohen based on a short story by Christopher Stokes.
The clash of cultures. The language barrier. Rituals and drums are at the center of the action. And sex. It is difficult to grasp onto one thing as the focus many times is split by director Alfred Preisser. You might miss what someone is saying by watching the restless natives walking, sometimes backwards, down the aisle of the small theatre.
Michael is brought ashore, with his wet khakis, by Bringing Man (David Brown, Jr.) speaking Native gibberish while the Natives of Asmat speak perfect English. Bringing Man translates. Michael becomes a friend and shares a feast of strange foods with the Governor (Shayshahn MacPherson) who has a great grin when taking a group photo.
Shortly after the Governor dies and Michael for some odd reason is thought somehow to be the cause. Causing Half Moon Terror (David King) to exchange his pregnant wife Plentiful Bliss (Tracy Jack) for the barren wife of Designing Man, Breezy (Ayesha Ngaujah) for s few nights of “shaping”.
What ensues is a series of simulated graphic sexual acrobatic positions from A to Z sure to make this a show a hot ticket as Plentiful Bliss (the perfect name) straddles and is shaped with Designing Man’s “shaping tool” – well the above picture is worth a thousand words while at the same time implanting in his mind that Michael must die. And as they have not had a beheading in quite some time…
Comedy and cannibalism make for strange bedfellows. The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller attempts to “shape” them together but only partially succeeds. Dependant upon your sense of humor and willingness to suspend disbelief.
www.dogrunrep.com Photo: Lia Chang
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