“Let the probe begin!”
That’s how Kelly A. Jenkins and Karen Getz begin Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical Anthropological Inquisitorial Probe, presented at the makeshift performance space at 1425 Main Street. Sporting thin white hoop skirts, and even thinner English accents, the pair do not so much perform as conduct a 60-plus minute conversation with the audience, bent on identifying what is quintessential about our city and region.
In an age when social media promotes the notion of conversation over professionally prepared content, this type of show is definitely in step with the times, but it fails to recognize that a strong guiding hand and ready wit are needed to pull off this kind of daring endeavor. Jenkins and Getz have an easy rapport with each other, and they do manage to keep the questions and up-to-the-moment assessments moving forward, but they presuppose that a improvised conversation on our local identity is going to make up for missing out on an evening of imagination artfully designed.
In its current state, the misstep of Cecily and Gwendolyn is that it inverts two key standards of performance. The first is that audiences attend a show to be given information, not to be plumbed for it. The second is that an audience implicitly expects to be making the assessments of what is presented, not the performers. The reversal of these roles puts those in attendance in the unexpected position of providing the show, and not everyone is up to that. If this sort of exercise is your cup of tea, please note that varying ranges of participation are expected, and some members of the house are asked to take notes and draw pictures of the proceedings.
However, if you’re the type who likes to show what you (and your city) are made of, here’s your opportunity. Let the probe begin.