Prufrock, Rhinoceros Theater Festival, at No Exit Cafe. Still measuring out his life with coffee spoons and daring to eat a peach, T.S. Eliot’s passive survivor finds himself in colorful company in Cavan P.M. Hallman’s 50-minute fantasia. Rearranging if not deconstructing the sardonic “love song” (we actually hear what the women who come and go say about Michelangelo), Hallman plays Prufrock as a feckless quester obsessed with taking because he has nothing to give. He reacts in panic to a loveless engagement by becoming entangled with a waitress (Meghan Murphy) he eventually murders–displaying far more enterprise than Eliot would have given him credit for. He also encounters the three Fates, Medea about to murder her children, Odysseus resisting the sirens’ song, and Virgil and Dante declaiming from their epic travel poems. The contrast only shrinks Prufrock the more.
Hallman creates daring juxtapositions: the chorus moves from overlapping dialogue to a chanted lamentation to final cacophony. It’s not easy to perform ritualistic movement in the cramped No Exit Cafe. And the occasional stiff recitation takes its toll, making the rapid mood changes more confusing than convincing. But Callman’s depiction of a very needy Prufrock anchors Eliot’s culture-clashing collage in a kind of disarming mediocrity. Eliot, who certainly treasured many artists he didn’t get around to mentioning in the poem, would have appreciated this literary carnival.