IMPRESSIONS: Dickie Beau’s "Blackouts" at Abrons Art Center
October 6, 2017
Co-presented by Crossing The Line Festival
A long corridor leads the audience onto the stage of Abrons Arts Center’s Playhouse Theater. Cushions lay in front of a couple of rows of chairs to create an intimate audience setting. A table, a chair, a reel-to-reel recording device, and several suitcase trunks make up the set. But projections on black gauze separate the stage space from the audience, achieving a multi-layered dimension.
Drag fabulist Dickie Beau mimes his way through the story of journalist Richard Meryman who interviewed Marilyn Monroe before her death. Typewriter font appears on the gauze while Beau takes on the body language of an old man (Meryman). He occasionally switches to the gestures of Monroe as her image is superimposed through projection. On screen, Beau lip-synchs to a song by Marlene Dietrich; his makeup appears to be less elaborate from shot to shot, almost but not quite revealing himself.
Beau puts on red sparkly heels and then lip-syncs to Judy Garland tapes of an autobiographical nature. He incorporates body quirks and repeats certain short passages as if to underline or to divulge something important about Garland. As we know, Monroe and Garland desperately wanted to be so loved that they fell apart publicly. This vulnerability still attracts performers and adoring fans.
Both Monroe and Garland were in the public eye for so very long that it is hard to add new insights. Their neediness has been well documented, and their insatiable need for adoration is inherent in almost every performer.
Interestingly, the mysterious figure of Marlene Dietrich, Beau chooses to not inhabit in person. On tape, she tells Maximilian Schell that neither she nor her things are to be photographed. Dietrich knew how to keep her legacy alive without ever disappointing her audience.
I am fascinated by Beau’s beauty and his courage to appear ugly. Yet because we do not ever hear his voice, he casts a mystery about himself. Questions that linger are less about Monroe or Garland but about a performer’s self and about how much of it one should reveal.
At the end, Beau transforms into Monroe and the curtain to the auditorium lifts. Rows of empty chairs, a chandelier — a glorious image. Beau descends from the stage into an imaginary adoring audience to the sounds of “River of no Return.”