One of the dangers of mockery is that the mocking party opens itself up to be mocked by the initially mocked -- and by onlookers looking on.
“Complete,” a no-intermission quasi-hostage situation, written by Andrea Kuchlewska and directed by Jennifer Chambers, is a parody of est and the Landmark Forum and also, arguably, the erudite as they grasp for perfection in lieu of love.
Where the play might invite its own mockery is in its irksome and relentless delivery. While the acting is fine among most of the actors, especially Scott Kruse and Meredith Bishop, who try darned hard despite their steadfast characters to find moments of meaning and heartfelt truth, the script is rather assaulting -- not in that it is lacking in intelligence, insight or layers, which it isn't -- but in that it doesn’t seem to consider the emotional journey of its audience. Because of this lack of empathy for her audience, the playwright functions, herself, as hostage-taker akin to est founder Werner Erhard.
The story involves a self-help guru, clearly modeled after Erhard, and a couple of his minions, who both take and question his advice, which is ultimately both wrong and right.
There is indeed a central paradox at play, here, in this oft-confounding play. While so many of the practices of self-help entities, such as The Landmark Forum and perhaps also Scientology, seem suspect insofar as their number-one goal seems to be at-all-cost self-perpetuation, the results amassed by some of their participants (those who don’t back out the door once they are met with Cheshire smiles) are indeed positively life-reforming.
With regard to the also-parodied world of linguistics, it seems that more than mocking the specific practices of that insular language world, the goal of this play is to draw attention to the great paradox that resides within it. While it is a seemingly desirable goal for all people to become increasingly educated, there comes a point at which a person might become too educated and hence incorrigible. Who wants to spend time with anyone who corrects her every error?
If our ultimate goal as humans is to love, how does edifying the self in either self-help workshops or university bring us closer to that goal?
Interestingly, this dilemma -- this question as to how much is too much -- is brought to the fore in a theater where artists who love and feel and connect and transcend are asked to play these characters who are cold and flagrantly horrid.
This reviewer, while chafed quite markedly by the assailant characters, especially the romantic lead played to unromantic perfection by Bishop, whose pathology renders her completely unlovable, there is a certain fascination with the material. Perhaps that is due to all the education that has led this reviewer to live mostly in her still-learning head. Ahem.
For those who want theater that is soft, smooth and uplifting, this particular one-act might not be your vehicle. For those who prefer interesting, provocative and at times grating and even angering, in a venue where connection is ironically king, and you find enjoyment from works that have two opposing themes, check out “Complete.”
You might want to beforehand revel in an article by Steven Pinker, imbibe at Providence a Petrus Bordeaux, before being led into prayer by [insert guru-of-the-day] in order to make your raised-brow evening complete.
“Complete” irks and enkindles and who-knows-what-else at the Matrix in West Hollywood through March 30.