What Just Happened?!?! The Transformative Power of Michelle Ellsworth Mar 16, 2012

by Katie W

Last week, my boyfriend decided that we should take a break.  He did so without establishing any parameters for said break.  He is apt, as most men are, to go to his metaphoric cave and stoically assess his problems.  Women, on the other hand, are often impetuous information-gatherers in times of stress.

This is at the core of Michelle Ellsworth's piece, Phone Homer, which premiered last night at On the Boards.  Ellsworth plays five named characters, as well as a myriad of other virtual personas.  The piece is centered on the Clytemnestra of Greek mythology and her actual and virtual realities.  Ellsworth provides us with the frenetic electronic backdrop of Clytemnestra's Internet, looming large on two huge projection screens.  The music changes in Pandora-like fashion with the tone of the piece.  Always present is the intermittent punctuation of Skype-like calls from the four other characters.  It's like Tracey Ullman on LSD, elevated to a mythic plane.

As audience members, we are given an all-access pass to Clytemnestra's inner monologue.  It is imperfect, non-linear and utterly compelling.  Instead of a mouse, she uses an angular, urgent movement vocabulary that manipulates the images, text and music on the screens.  

Which brings us to the hamburgers.

After seeing this show, you will never look at a hamburger the same way again.  Ellsworth plants them, eats them, fondles them, destroys them and hurls them at the earth.  They are her compulsion and her sacrifice.

Walking out of the theatre, I felt as though the performance had struck a tuning fork that restored me to my most lucid self.  You don't need to know what the show means, but you do need to afford yourself the experience of this unique tour de force. 

Afterwards, I went out to have a drink with friends and then went to McDonald's on the way home and absolutely murdered a hamburger Happy Meal.