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The Crazy Wisdom Sho 

This wild multimedia show is crazy, for sure, but is it wise?

Wednesday, Dec 19 2001
George Coates' hard-core fans will be excited to see him return to the world of multimedia theatrics, but those who fawned over his brilliant production of Valerie Solanas' lost play Up Your Ass two seasons ago (myself included) may be disappointed with this latest concoction. The Crazy Wisdom Sho begins with the cast of three singing an upbeat Nigerian tune (which we learn means "Your dying day is coming to get you") and continues with nearly two hours of proverbial eccentricity -- not all of it comprehensible. The play is framed by a (very) loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello and involves several other abstract underlying stories. One of them depicts a man (played by the Nigerian actor Babatundé Garaya) who is studying how to speak from a TelePrompTer in order to rule his country, an obscure dig at the present domestic political situation that becomes clearer as the play progresses. Throughout, Garaya reveals bits of wisdom (inspired by Sufi and Zen teaching, and often quite funny), while his schizophrenic teacher/wife/who-knows-what (played expertly by Sara Moore) morphs from one personality to the next, occasionally rummaging through a trunk for costumes. Moore, who originated the role of Bongi Perez in Up Your Ass, is undeniably the main attraction. One of the city's most versatile actors, she portrays a variety of personalities -- a Midwest receptionist, a coarse male New Yorker, a scholar obsessed with the real authorship of Shakespeare's works -- with an infallible tongue and a radiating presence. Moore's commanding vocals are also well used in song, and her comedic timing is exceptional. Still, despite descriptive, multimedia overhead visuals and engaging stage props (human-size fire extinguishers, giant Styrofoam chains), it's a challenge to tie it all together. The Crazy Wisdom Sho is crazy as all hell, but it's hard to say how wise it is.

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Karen Macklin


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