Pferdzwackür: Buy This Experience

Consider yourself when you aim to be amused or otherwise moved by a performance. You sit back. The expression on your face says “entertain me.” You are passive; you let it wash over you, whether the _it_ is actors on the stage, or television characters, or whatever. If you grow bored you can turn it off, or look down and examine your cuticles, or yawn loudly.

Now consider yourself facing a very different kind of performance: someone trying to sell you something. Much is the same. They clamor for your attention. You may or may not be amused. But the stakes are raised, because the seller, unlike an actor, has a very concrete goal in mind (for you to buy something) instead of the nebulous goal of entertaining you, and you have a concrete choice (whether to spend) instead of a nebulous one (whether to Be Entertained).

You could say that “Pferdwackür’s Vampire Nutcracker”: is about taking these two types of performance and smashing them headlong into each other. But the play is far more subtle and weird than a bland critique of American consumerism, or even a wry commentary on it, because the actors _actually want you to buy things_. If you show up at any of the remaining performances this weekend — and you should — it’ll be fun, but it’ll also force you to choose whether to spend real money for a jar of Frabjous Elixir or a fuzzy knockoff of the Book of Secrets. You will have to decide whether you are being entertained, or hucksterized, or both. In a way I’m diluting the experience by telling you about it in advance, but I knew what was coming when I sat down and it was still a peculiar, engaging experience.

As to what the play is actual _about_, well, that’s hard to describe. The gaudy but gorgeous costumes, the green plumes of Seussian trees, and the gimcrackery of the 200 Machine will all resonate with anyone familiar with Matt Sahr’s other work: the surreal dance of Voice in Head, perhaps, or the adventures of the Candyman and Mr. Pointy. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Clod’s attempts to rescue his sister from a vampire that may or may not exist and may or may not be her real problem. Four fine young actors flit deftly among ten or so different roles. You’ll have to pay close attention to catch every nuance of the avalanche of words that the characters utter, but even when you find yourself completely lost to Sense, as it were, you can rest assured that there will always be Spectacle. For sheer delight, it’s hard to match a play where both stage and audience get inundated in a sea of bouncy rubber balls.

I suppose it’s in keeping with the play that I pass along a Helpful Consumer Tip: if you’re only going to buy one thing, buy yourself a Rubber Voodoo Man. The accompanying documentation is well worth the price all by itself.

So, to review: if you live in the area, you’re heading over to the “Baltimore Theatre Project”: this weekend, Thursday-Saturday at 8:00, or Sunday at 3:00. Have a fine time, and whatever you do, don’t open the box.