A year ago Karim Muasher was part of the group Giant Bird that came to the 2009 Cincy Fringe to tell the story of the Empire of Feathers, a mythic world in which a quest was undertaken to find a rare bird. This time around, Muasher is back in a solo piece to tell a “spoken-word, multi-media bedtime story” set in a more elemental, mythic world illustrated by crude Nintendo graphics and electronic audio effects.
Muasher comes onstage as a nervous man in a khaki suit wearing oversized, black frame glasses. He peers at the audience, awkwardly adjusts his suit coat, then begins to speak too closely through a microphone, as if this is a new experience for him. He identifies himself as “The Historian” and sets out to deliver his “short lecture.” It’s a tale of long-past universe — he calls it the “Oldverse” — where babies made of ice were the inhabitants who mostly sleep.
But two of them, Pixel and Bit (a boy and a girl), become close and “ROMANCE” ensues, as the Historian reminds us archly, using a close and profound voice through his echoing microphone. The pair marries and finds jobs (he’s the “astronomer-general” and she’s the poet laureate)
Pixel’s quest doesn’t achieve its desired result and the Oldverse disappears, only to form a “Newverse” from its ashes (at least 10 pounds of them) which might be our own but is certainly that of the Historian.
If this all sounds a tad silly, it is. And it’s intended to be. Gentle, studied humor is a component of Muasher’s method, but the story he tells has the feeling of a fable, of a creation myth delivered in a manner that’s quirky and odd. But it’s strangely compelling, too.
At the end of his “short lecture” (the piece is a bit under 50 minutes), the Historian does what Pixel pleads for — he “saves” him. But it’s in a multiple-meaning sense: Pixel is saved as you would save a file on your computer, recorded and sampled, reduced to an image on a piece of paper. It’s a clever extension and resolution of the two-dimensional “world” of Nintendo graphics, perhaps a suggestion that the next iteration of a universe might have more dimensionality and texture.
The piece is allusive and elusive — intentionally so. It’s also evocative, entertaining and engaging. It’s that kind of Fringe show that pushes boundaries with simple means: a computer, a projector, a simple approach, a stylized acting method.
This show won’t be for everyone, but it will fascinate many.
(Get upcoming performance dates and venue details here.)