Monday, June 2, 2014

Sonata for Rimbaud (review)

Spoilers ahoy!
Courtesy of Zombie Joe's Underground

What is poetry? Or maybe the better question--what is a poem? Quite possibly the greatest compliment I can offer Sonata for Rimbaud, a one man show written and performed by Abbott Alexander is that thinking about this show, I found myself asking those kinds of questions.

For example, wikipedia has this definition: "Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language  to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning."

Looking at that I have little choice but to go with my initial thought, that Sonata for Rimbaud is in fact a poem--save that it uses movement as well, at times quite stylized, enough to maybe have it qualify as dance.

Guess that makes it theatre!

A powerful piece of theatre, to be sure. I myself was not familiar with the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, as per the title. Alexander's piece of theatre inspired me to look further. Please view that also as a compliment, a very positive judgment of both piece and performance. He seems like a brilliant but lost soul. An innocent Lucifer, if you will, never having been in (or found) God's presence and lacking any power of an angel save that of words woven into art.

Courtesy of Zombie Joe's Underground
The temptation of a reviewer at this point becomes to describe the action, give some indication of the "plot." And that is what I'm going to do, but not in a way you might expect. Our narrator/lead--who is he supposed to be? I don't know, and pretty soon even asking the question seemed beside the point. He was a man, a human, grappling with things I have known and finding in Rimbaud something of a kindred spirit. Just as I found in him the very same. By implication, I feel for Rimbaud.

He shows himself a man frustrated with mundane little problems, wavering between glorious arrogance and wise shame. A lonely man. A man who wants to rebel, wants to fit in, wants to excel and sometimes has, sometimes does, but doesn't feel it. Not really.

He seems familiar. At times very familiar.

Perhaps for that very reason I couldn't take my eyes away, and the technical part of me, the part that looks back and analyzes, wants to offer some praise  here. The best actors can convey enormous dignity--and humiliate themselves totally, fearlessly. Such was what I saw in Mr. Alexander's performance. Likewise I cannot tell you how impressed I was with the simple fact he said every word. Many won't even understand what that means! But many actors mouth words, say the sound of words, pretend to talk by pretending to say words--at least now and then. Not in this performance. He said every word, instead of making the sounds of the word.

I hope many more people manage to go see this show at Zombie Joe's. I hope they end up as fascinated and moved as myself, or even more. My greatest hope is that they'll have the same double experience, of seeing first this performance and then looking up the life of Arthur Rimbaud--then each time saying the identical words I did somewhere in my mind:

Hello. You are me.

Sonata for Rimbaud runs on Friday Evenings @ 8:30pm for (3) more Performances (Thru JUNE 20), at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601.  Tickets Only $15. Reservation Hotline: 818-202-4120.  Websites: For Advance Tickets:

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