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Hollywood Fringe 2017

Definition of Man

Nikki Muller and Jason Rosario

Genre: Physical Theatre

Venue: Sacred Fools Black Box


Low Down

A couple consider repairing their relationship. It IS the end of the world.


After some unexplained apocalypse, there are two survivors, a man and a woman. Can they put aside their differences and give the world a fresh start? This very dense and thought-provoking piece has clearly been painstakingly created and rehearsed. The monologues are profound and poetic, and the physical work is somewhere between dance and gymnastics. It has a muscularity acquired through repetition that should only get better as the run progresses.
Nikki Muller plays XX and is the credited writer and co-creator. A genuine renaissance woman, Mueller is an academic who can speak several languages, sings beautifully and is an accomplished athlete, she manages to showcase all these skills in this brisk 60-minute meditation on gender, learning and life.
Jason Rosario plays XY and is a credited co-creator, the pair are a perfect physical match, similar in weight and height, which enables them to perform intricate balances while engaging in their eternal badinage. The heightened language has the weight of the written word and is strongest when it is unashamedly declamatory, the occasional forays into seemingly naturalistic conversation are less satisfying but prompt deeper philosophical musings. Quotes are credited and far-reaching, from Goethe to Lesley Gore, as XX tries to keep the learning of the past alive by filling the air with what she knows. XY is less verbose, his worldview stunted by his Puerto Rican/Floridian background. A “Creators’ Note” in the program cites Donna Harraway’s concept of “Situated Knowledges”, the idea that there is no such thing as pure objectivity as we are all coming from our particular viewpoint. The resultant specificity makes the story smaller somehow. It is when we see the pair as a post apocalyptic Adam and Eve that the piece is most powerful. The ending gives us some room for hope, if not exactly “Happy ever after”.
Overall, the show is bold in form and content, unapologetically high-brow but with enough sweat and passion to stop it feeling dry and purely academic. JJ Mayes directs deftly with good but unobtrusive use of sound and light. It is being presented under the auspices of the new Actors’ Equity Association, Los Angeles self-produced code and is a good example of actors setting the bar high when developing their own project. I recommend this show.