Musical DEEP, one of the Gorilla Tango Theater’s newest productions, embodies all that is quirky and kitschy about small theater. While the glitter-adorned, handmade playbills and amateur, four-person cast are endearing, the play’s cuteness couldn’t keep it afloat in its sea of pseudo-intellectual themes.
DEEP—only 45 minutes long—centers around a group of teenagers named Paragraph, Friday Night Text, Rock, and Boey, who decide to create a truly deep, moving piece of experimental musical theater after seeing one of transformative greatness. They soon realize, however, that their suburban, middle-class lives have no source material with which to create such a piece. They ultimately decide that they will have to mess up their own lives and dedicate themselves to self-destruction, all in the name of their musical.
The beautiful performance piece that acts as the group’s catalyst to action changes nightly with a revolving cast of characters. On the night in question, the spot was filled by Jeezy McNeezy, a burlesque performer dancing to the tune of Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple.” This sets the group off on a fantastical exploration of all things stereotypically “artistic,” which apparently nowadays means “hipster.”
With names like Paragraph and Friday Night Text and outfits consisting of plaid and tights, it is clear from the very beginning that the play is a parody of today’s hipster-inspired music and art trends. The play is further saturated with such satire by way of the characters’ speech; they are prone to dramatic pauses and the phrase “dot dot dot” as the verbal expression of an ellipsis. Witty, right? Even as the characters begin to wreck their lives, the play maintains its tone of light mockery. For example, after it is revealed that Rock and Boey are having an affair, Paragraph’s accidental confession of her homosexual love for Rock is light and humorous.
However, the play’s ending abruptly shifts away from this light-hearted mood. As Rock and Boey are suddenly confronted with the very real problem of unwanted (or, in this case, somewhat wanted) teenage pregnancy, one cannot help but recall the humorous treatment of child neglect only a few scenes earlier. In the final chaotic and confusing scene, Rock and Boey bounce back and forth between aborting the baby and carrying it to term. As the characters suggest, the baby could represent an act of creation comparable to the artistic creation of the musical. The play does indeed end with the baby being born, in the name of art, to hipster teenage parents who have no idea how to take care of him. Rather than providing a shocking and thought-provoking ending, the birth scene only comes across as extremely contrived. The dramatic tone of this scene emerges so suddenly that it is devoid of any real emotion.
The play’s theme and main question—to what extent real life should be transformed in the name of art?—is an interesting topic that could have been explored in a satisfying and thoughtful way. As it is, the play is weighed down by too much satirical baggage to be truly emotional or thought-provoking.