'Slice of Life' takes reality out for a spin

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Tuesday November 15, 2022
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Flannery Mays as Roxanne and John Fisher as Jordy in 'A Slice Of Life' (photo: Crystal Liu)
Flannery Mays as Roxanne and John Fisher as Jordy in 'A Slice Of Life' (photo: Crystal Liu)

The new play written, starring and directed by John Fisher, the Artistic Director of Theatre Rhinoceros is called "A Slice of Life." That's a warm and homey misnomer for a show that finds Fisher not only slicing, but dicing, chopping, shredding and puréeing the domestic storyline he initially teases into an unnerving phantasmagoria.

Were I The Chronicle, I might award it a little man in a chair scarfing julienne fries.

The show starts out seeming like cute, pat, seriocomic homo pablum: Jordy (Fisher), a Fisher-like queer theater-maker who lives and works in a wee, threadbare performance space is confronted by an unexpected visitor.

Roxanne (Flannery Mays, effortlessly charismatic) is the 22-year-old daughter Jordy abandoned as an infant, leaving her —and her mother— behind to find himself and make art in San Francisco. She's an actress now and, having heard that her father is a theatrical mover and shaker, wants to hit him up for connections, not to mention psychodrama and reconciliation.

John Fisher as Jordy in 'A Slice Of Life' (photo: Crystal Liu)  

But Jordy/Fisher, is no mover/shaker; he's a slicer/dicer/etceterer. The playwright/actor deliberately tinkers with his own identity, having Jordy perform excerpts of a WWII-themed monologue very much like ones Fisher himself has performed in this very space.

And Roxanne may not be Jordy's daughter (She's certainly not Fisher's; he has no children), but rather said daughter's one-time lover; said daughter also now being dead daughter, perhaps reunited with Jordy's own former lover, the daughter's mother, also alleged to be dead.

"Slice of Life" heedlessly screws with the boundaries between reality and imagination, autobiography and fiction. "Alice in Wonderland," is evoked in theater exercises that Jordy works on with Roxanne, Lewis Carroll's nods to drug-induced visions feeding into Roxanne's references to substance-related disassociation. Sometimes the show is maddening; sometimes it makes you worry that its creator is actually —disturbingly— mad.

At times during this past Sunday's sparsely attended performance, the show felt extremely discomforting, even embarrassing. During one of the amateurish, overwrought war monologues he says he performs alone, for himself, Jordy (or the character he's playing in the monologue, or Fisher, who is playing Jordy) directly exhorted the theater Rhino audience to provide wind storm and machine gun sound effects.

I sincerely hope that "Slice of Life" is provocative experimental theater, an intentional exercise in audience bewilderment. If that's to your taste, by all means make haste to watch Fisher toss his conceptual salad.

'Slice of Life,' through Nov. 27. $15-$25. Theatre Rhinoceros, 4229 18th St. (415) 552-4100. www.therhino.org

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