Last night, we caught the much-touted puppet rock opera Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty, a collaboration of visual artists Dan Graham, Tony Oursler, and Rodney Graham with punk duo Japanther (just a drum and a bass) and, of Being John Malkovich fame, the Huber Marionettes. The show's been getting some hype, with an upcoming performance at UCLA's Hammer Museum and an installation at the Whitney Biennial in March. My take on it?
It was ok.
DTAOT is more spectacle than content: the stage is a white wall (onto which videos are projected) with cutouts for the puppet show on the left and the hilarious, thunderous Japanther in the other. The story, based loosely on the 1968 film Wild in the Streets, satirizes hippie idealism and the '60s mantra of its title, tracking the career of fringed-jacketed Neil Skye, a 24-year old rock star who is elected president after sparking teen riots (which result in the lowering of the voting age to 14) and spiking Congress' drinking water with LSD. Long story short, after reaching power, a drug-addled Skye is ousted by his adopted son, whose modified mantra is "don't trust anyone over ten." Japanther was the highlight. The drummer's back was to the audience the entire time, the guitarist's pick was a credit card, and their mikes were phone receivers. Playing in their lightbulb-edged box, they were like too-big puppets crowded in front of Marshall stacks in a curio case. Which all somehow added to the raucousness of their music. Still, the whole thing never really transcended entertainment to become a cohesive meaningful piece of art.
The gist: brilliant puppetry, excellent music, gratuitously trippy videos, a too-short 40-minute run-time, and a ho-hum story.