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John Michael's Crossing Your I's a quirky study in dementia

John Michael
John Michael
Audacity Theatre Lab / Dallas Solo Fest 2014

Crossing Your I's

Rating:
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John Michael is very skilled at arrivals. In Crossing Your I's he comes to the stage on a bicycle (apparently) his current, preferred mode of transportation. He talks about confrontations, how dismissive motorists are towards cyclists. He goes on to describe his job, which is working with the elderly in an assisted living facility, and enriching the lives of those with dementia. Buying them time.He organizes events for them, plays games with them, shows them how to paint. He describes an oopsy moment for one of the gentlemen living there that results in tears, then gallantly invites us to watch him occupied on the pot, without actually dropping trousers. (Only John Michael could make this work.) He has ongoing visions of his senior self, visiting from the future. He selects masks of elders from his job from time to time, to help him with his narrative. When he talks about love, it becomes a very real and palpable commodity. Love means comforting someone in a profoundly embarassing moment. Love isn't necessarily a spontaneous asset.

Those of us acquainted with JM's body of work will recognize the charming frankness of Crossing Your I's, and his departure here, from examining life as a unashamed gay young man, in the context of queer subculture and society's often virulent, homophobic ambivalence. Now, he still includes his gender identity in the mix, he never conceals it, but his focus is clearly on the excruciating issues raised when the reasoning and recollection faculties of our loved ones begin to lapse. JM has a gift for evaluating a situation with warmth, mitigating humor, and candor. He doesn't hide behind kitsch or preciousness, but neither does paint a milieu overcome with grim, overwhelming despair. He really hates his job at the outset, but discovers as time passes and he learns some coping techniques, it might actually be a good fit.

It was interesting to observe that John Michael's tone was similar to his other shows, but how he was moving away from the raw, frenetic antics of pieces like Order of the Penix and A-Gays. Nothing wrong with those, of course, but it was also refreshing to experience a more pensive, reflective monologue, dipped in his untainted, enthusiastic worldview. There is something so exquisite, so poignant about John Michael's ability to find the humanity and compassion in a predicament, without blowing smoke up our ass. As much as anything Crossing Your I's is about mortality, disappointment, rage, but it's also about the tranquility that comes when we do what we can, and permit our higher power to take of the rest. Directed by Erin Singleton, John Michael does this tangibly, genuinely, without sounding like a homily.

Audacity Theare Lab presents : John Michael's Crossing Your I's : Dallas Solo Fest 2014 : Final performance 10:30 PM, Friday, May 23rd : The Margo Jones Theater at Fair Park. 1121 First Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75210. Magnolia Lounge, next door to River Mill Inn. http://www.DallasSoloFest.com/