The 2 p.m. premiere of blessing the boats was packed — surprising, considering that there’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon out there and Sekou Sundiata’s “performance essay” is a play about the relationship between one man and his kidneys. Enough people apparently found this premise compelling enough to to fill the Emmett Robinson Theatre, which, if nothing else, renews this Spoleto critic’s faith in the future of drama.
But before I go there, let me take a moment, if I can to heap the vilest of curses upon the technological public snafu called The Radius — ostensibly the free, city-spanning wireless internet “cloud” created by the the Evening Post Co. and a local ISP. To call The Radius worthless would be an insult to worthless things everywhere. In years past, the Lowbrow has always been able to steal a few minutes between Spoleto shows downtown and duck into Port City Java at the corner of King and Calhoun, where he enjoyed a free wireless connection and a good cup of pick-me-up. Now, though, Port City Java is history, and the space is sitting empty — waiting, I’m told by those who know, to become the home of Calhoun Street’s third Starbucks. (!) The Radius was supposed to have eliminated the need for the wireless hunt, but in the rare instances when a signal can be found, it’s weak as wet tissue and the only page that comes up is a nonfunctional “registration” page. It’s a boondoggle of epic proportions, and thank god no taxpayers’ money went into it. End rant. And a big shout-out to Kudu Coffee for great joe and a good signal.
Back to blessing the boats. Sekou Sundiata has a wonderful voice and a remarkable gift for using language to its most lyrical effect. His multimedia performance was engaging and original; I just wish he’d been using those gifts to craft a dramatic conflict about something other than an internal organ. After about 30 minutes of listing to him talk about Menixidil, hemodialysis, ACE inhibitors, vasoseizures, urethral catheters, and the like, the Lowbrow was feeling distinctly queasy and recalling afresh exactly why he decided against medical school.
A first-person monologue can yield a powerful performance. Mike Daisey’s unscripted performances pieces have comprised some of my favorite Spoleto moments. I wanted to enjoy Sundiata’s multimedia theatre work, I really did. But his self-referencing narrative was a pity party that seemed to consist of nothing but me’s and I’s. I began by sympathizing with his illness and his plight. But an hour and a half later, all I wanted was to could get out of there and get my hands on a bottle of Pepto Bismol.