How to make me hate David Foster Wallace

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Two actors look as bored as the audience in A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace.

In brief: create a distracting and dull theatrical piece based on his writings.

A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace offers up several excerpts by the late American author, performed by a quartet of actors on a stage littered with thousands of tennis balls. 

I like a series of puzzling metaphors as much as the next person, but this show drones on for 90 butt-numbing minutes, as a quartet of actors lifelessly recite Wallace's writing. The action is often as inert as the reading. You could close your eyes for long stretches of the show and not miss anything. When you open them again, the same actor will be standing in the same position on the darkened stage, droning on and on about hesitating at the top of a tall diving board.

Despite the efforts of Fish and the quartet of performers, some of Wallace's wit and bite force their way through. The "title" piece — drawn from a cruise the author took — offers a mix of wry observations about the frighteningly efficient service on board the ship and Wallace's own insecurities about accepting that service.

Later, we hear Wallace's feelings about tennis star Tracy Austin's celebrity autobiography in the piece, "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart." Apart from explaining the tennis balls (and the poster of the athlete placed at the back of the stage), we get a further sense of what made the author tick, both in the way he reacted to this banal piece of writing and how it differed from Austin's own career.

All fine and good, but I could have sat down with some of Wallace's collections and read through the various bits in a lot more comfort. Fish and his cohorts don't offer up enough reasons to venture out into the cold. A more dynamic presentation — one that offered, perhaps, movement beyond firing tennis balls at the Austin poster — would certainly help. 

If you are interested, another Fish project — the film Eternal — will be shown at 1 p.m. this Saturday. In it, the final scene of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is presented by a pair of actors. They go through the scene dozens of times during the two-hour film, each time offering up slightly different interpretation. Personally, I'd rather watch the run-up to the Australian Open, or read some David Foster Wallace.

IF YOU GO

A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

The Walker Art Center

1750 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

$18-$25

For tickets and more information, call 612-375-7600 or visit online.


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