Dreamland's garden of dreams
by Shakuntala Tambimuttu
Don't be afraid of the witchy pentacles for sale, the stacks of tarot cards, or the music stand that looks like macaroni. And don't let the mismatched chairs either stuffed and stained, hard and metal, or the kind that the dentist uses to excavate your mouth frighten you away. There are marionettes eerily lurking in the back room of the Dreamland Theater, dimly glimpsed through the smoky glass of the alley window, as forbidding and enticing as the little locked door in Bluebeard's palace. On a Weird Wednesday night, if you are fortunate, you may see them emerge onto the candlelit stage to add a captivating and strange brand of whimsy to the most unique open-mike night around.
Jaunty master of ceremonies Misha Grey, sporting a goatee and a stylish cap, kicked one Weird Wednesday off with flair, opening with his original organ prelude. It had an electronic cathedral sound, like Notre Dame in a box. He followed this with a toe-tapping synthesizer jam that had the small audience clapping.
Next up was unassuming Kirk Kitchen. His quiet reading of his short story "Rara and Me" drew me into a private world that left me nostalgic for a dried-up riverbed on a sunny afternoon spent with a free-spirited woman named Rara. Months later, the images he conjured are still with me.
Succumbing to the fairy-tale spell cast by master puppeteer Naia Venturi and others, I was subsequently drawn into an alternate universe where love between a beauteous blond marionette named Maryann and a humble pot of dirt was not only possible but joyously celebrated in song. Pot of Dirt sang poignant ditties with such lyrics as "I'm only dirt . . . the same you scrape off your shoe," which touched my heart in an "It's Not That Easy Being Green" sort of way. Maryann's musical musings over her love for Pot of Dirt "How can I fall in love with . .
. dirt!? He's under my nails and between my toes!" made me laugh out loud.
Afterward, I was taken on a meandering musical magic-carpet ride with "The Viceroy of the Golden Chariot," written by guitarist Tom Barton. Another of his compositions, "Car That Says Car," is about a more mundane method of transportation, his Ford Escort.
Jeff Estee then wowed us with some fancy chops on his Epiphone hollow-body ax, playing instrumental renditions of "Everything's All Right" from Jesus Christ Superstar and "Point of No Return" by Kansas, followed by some original tunes about Internet dating and old-fashioned DJs. The grand finale featured the Misha Grey Band playing an extremely moody and goth original composition, "Castlemania," punctuated by Grey's creepy, diabolical laughter.
The back alleys of the mind can conceal many things both weird and wonderful that tend to emerge only in the realm of dreams. At Dreamland Theater's Weird Wednesday, anything that's in your mind's wild garden is welcome to bloom or fester onstage.
The next Weird Wednesday is November 16.
[Review published November 2005]