Let there be light. Then sound. Then a tree. Then, a sheep.
That’s how creation goes in Grackle Jack’s “In the Beginning,” a wild woman dum dum show created and performed by CB Goodman, co-directed by Sonnet Blanton, and shaped by a host of collaborators.
Performed at Austin’s Crashbox, and soon to transfer to New York’s FRIGID Fringe festival, this camp experimental theatre piece is a joyful, comic variation on the Genesis story, free of shame, rejection, and labels. Set in a garden populated by inflatable props, it combines images from iconic stories of gendered experiences with the divine including those of Eve, Lilith, Joan of Arc, and Mary Magdalene. But while that might be one linking element, this play pulls from the realm of clowning, foregoing weighty ideas like awe and guilt in favor of silliness and exploration.
From the moment the show kicks off, Goodman creates an open energy for gameplay with the audience. She jumps from scene to scene with declarations like “Now we’re naming things!”
Less than ten minutes into the show, she even offers up a Q&A, asking herself the questions that are probably in the audience’s mind, then rapid-fire answering them. “Is this the Garden of Eden? Is the bar still open? Does that inflatable sheep have an anus? Or is it a vagina? Is she going to be naked the whole time?” (In answer to the last one, yes, unless you consider a ridiculous take on a merkin, designed by Aaron Flynn, to be clothing.)
Light, playful moments of audience interaction are woven throughout the performance. Early in the show, Goodman inflates a male blow-up doll and performs an acrobatic strongman show with him. Then, she sends him crowd surfing through the audience. Later, Goodman serves the crowd a communion of twizzlers and twinkies. At another point, she prompts them to join her in rewriting Shakespeare’s version of Joan of Arc’s death scene, then burn the saint by waving red and gold pom poms. All the while, Googman deconstructs and dispenses with labels of all kinds, from names to sexualities to distinctions like good/bad.
At other points, the wild pacing slows down to make space for moments of absurd beauty. The inflatable sheep performs ballet. Under blue lighting designed by Natalie George, balloons balance on the invisible columns of air created by fans that point straight up.
The result is a show that is both poignant and ridiculously silly. An immensely energetic performer, CB Goodman breathes life into everything she touches. Embracing live-ness and rolling with mishaps, she breaks the audience out of their assumptions and invites them to imagine new possibilities for both the theatre and their own narratives. Most of all, she makes them laugh.
‘In the Beginning’ continues Feb. 9-11 at Crashbox, 5305 Bolm Road. Tickets and information at gracklejack.com/inthebeginning