Monday, April 10, 2006

Performance: L. Ron Half-Elven

Great Men of Genius: created and performed by Mike Daisey, directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, Capitol Hill Arts Center, April 6, 7, 8 and 9.

OK, you know the drill by now. Yadda yada yada Mike Daisey, yada yada Four nights, four geniuses, yada yada Lovely Bride and I got tickets.

And now we have the wrap-up - L. Ron Hubbard.

So this one was packed – I mean line-down-the-block, seats-put-everywhere, hope-the-fire-marshal-doesn't-show-up packed. And it was warm from body heat and stage lights.

And there was something else as well – a feeling of potential danger. While all the others of the series had their devotees, Mr. Hubbard has followers, as befits one who has created his own religion. Fanatical followers. Fanatical followers with sharp teeth and lawyers.

So there was very much a feeling of a Sword of Damocles hanging over Daisey's table, as if he had volunteered to disassemble a live explosive while we watched. OR was doing a show about that whacky Martin Luther in Lake Woebegone. Or he's telling a story about his Mother and you know his Mom is sitting right next to you.

And indeed Daisey pulls it off, mostly. I picked up a lot about L. Ron Hubbard's life, primarily because I've never paid attention to him previously. He was always this old-time SF Writer who I don't remember ever reading, a minor leaguer compared to Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke, who hit it big with Carlin's Law: "If you stick two things together that have never been stuck together before, some schmuck will buy it". In this case the two things were SF and Organized Religion. And I guess I always thought less of Hubbard because he sort of cut out on geekdom.

Daisey takes an interesting road, of how we create our realities and reassurances, and in turn compares Scientology with autohypnosis, acting exercises, the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe (who gets pummeled much worse about the head and shoulders than Scientology), psychoanalysis, Microsoft "special retreats" and the reward system in most computer games (and, yahknow, it is only that last one that makes me mildly uncomfortable). He probably could have thrown in the Masons and other fraternal orgs like the Elks, Eagles, and Oddfellows as well. And while on one hand his comparisons are all over the board, they are also much more comforting, making L. Rod's belief organization not seem so alien after all.

End result? Worth three nights – really worth all four, if you can make it. The show goes to New York, and for those readers of this journal out there, is worth checking out.