San Francisco Fringe 2017
“I’m standing in the middle of a football stadium full of people. They think they’re here for a Rolling Stones concert, but they’re really here for me. The Stones are about to come on and I see in front of me a girl on crutches. My first miracle – I’m gonna make her walk. An insider’s look at bipolar mood disorder.”
Bennet Caffee immediately takes us on a bus journey to Thailand where he meets a girl in Chiang Mai. Caffee is witty, self-effacing and soft spoken as he enacts conversations between him and her. Through vivid descriptions of cultural differences, comparison of their travels Caffee evokes this time in his past articulately.
The rich imagery and detail of the crafting of the piece give us a taste of these travels. Plus, he is really into telling his story in this solo performance. The pacing and flow work well and his visceral delivery and use of gestures clearly bring the experience to life for the audience. The set is simple and efficient, sometimes he uses different parts of the space or brings a chair onstage, to change places and locations, often he is centre stage speaking animatedly to the audience. Shifting well from time and place the piece develops as the stories move through different parts and eras of his life. Caffee uses vocal changes and physical dynamics for emphasis – such as volume and gestures – very effectively to make certain points. During mystical and magical moments there is humor and fun resulting from his witty and spare storytelling with a few dramatic light changes. On his mind and from recollections he mentions phrases like “men with guns” – a nightmare or reality? Perhaps both. Then it’s back to the girl!
Solo on stage, Caffee manages to populate the space with many other people as he interacts with characters he comes across and dialogues back and forth playing himself and them. He is an authentic storyteller, in the moment when he tells us about vicarious mental issues and bipolar mood disorder.
At one point he experiences disappointment and is on a mission to fix it, but before setting off he describes how he is “dancing up and down stairs, playing music on the bannisters.” At one point he thinks he is someone else and intensely evokes the atmosphere with sound effects, descriptions of what he sees at the time – and then comes down with a hard landing – no longer in Bangkok, but back in San Francisco. Caffee says that treatments and what they do are relative and it takes time to discover what’s best for each person. This is a fascinating and entertaining show with a moving ending!