Kind Ness
Blind Parrot Prod

Jeff Recommended, Chicago premiere of playwright Ping Chong's Kind Ness

"?Seemingly cute and cuddly, "Kind Ness" uses its sweetness like a sword? - Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Tribune 5/14/92 -

4/24/92 - 5/30/92

" Cutting cuteness Ping Chong's `Kind Ness' transforms innocent variety to malign sameness ? Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Tribune 5/14/92 - ?Seemingly cute and cuddly, "Kind Ness" uses its sweetness like a sword. Created for La Mama E.T.C. in 1986 by Ping Chong (a prominent contributor to performance art and experimental theater), this intriguing 90-minute piece furnishes a bittersweet group portrait of American kids in the 1960s, all from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds.

Diverse, indeed-one "kid," named Buzz, is a sweet-tempered gorilla from Rwanda. By the end of the piece, the kids' endearing differences have been rubbed off: Even the gorilla, now married to a haughty WASP tyke and wheeling a baby carriage, can't recognize his counterpart in the city zoo.

Assimilation and standardization have done the job and, as the title implies, now they're all of a kind.

The blandly innocuous slide show that sets the scene asks us to ponder several bizarre pairings: Which are alike and which are different? (The names George Sand and George Raft share an interest in objects connected with the sea.)

Continuing this quest for forced likenesses, "Kind Ness" presents familiar school-day scenes, here transformed into a multicultural "Dick and Jane."

Besides the gorilla and his patrician girlfriend, the other kids are a nerdy French-Canadian, a dotty Irish-Catholic girl, a nasty fundamentalist boy and a blind Eastern European Jew who gets cruelly kidded by the other tots.

Their activities look familiar enough-kids indulging in clumsy courtships in the schoolyard, coping with the confusion of the first day of school, presenting class reports (the gorilla knows a lot about dinosaurs), leafing through family albums, answering heavy philosophical questions in a vocational quiz, goofing off in the rain as they wait for a bus, pursuing romance at the senior prom.

Adding to the melange are incongruous slapstick chase scenes between a fake gorilla and the "bwana" who pursues him. Even this isn't as funny as it seems: It's also a burlesque version of the real cruelties that Buzz's family suffered from poachers.

The random friendships that the kids forge seem very fragile, and slowly their differences start to make a difference, with earlier tensions heightened by bad feelings unleashed by the Vietnam War. In one scary scene, they launch into a long litany of hate-ridden racial and sexual epithets.

As Chong sees it, their socialization is complete.

Blending movement, music, stage pictures and dialogue, Brian Shaw's cartoony staging, a local premiere by Blind Parrot Productions, underlines the tainted innocence of Chong's not-so-golden childhood memories.

Clad in Frances Maggio's deceptively bland kiddie clothes, the cast of nine (including a busy stagehand and an offstage narrator) make little effort to suggest its ethnic differences. No one stands out, and that is Chong's point.

- Exploring movement Blind Parrot staging Chicago debut of `Kind Ness' ? David McCracken, Chicago Tribune 4/30/92 - ?In a clear-cut case of performance overlapping theater or vice versa, Blind Parrot Productions is presenting the Chicago premiere of "Kind Ness" by Ping Chong, an artist whose often enigmatic and highly visual works have enthralled audiences at MoMing, the Dance Center of Columbia College and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

According to Blind Parrot artistic director Clare Nolan-Long, the company pursued the rights to "Kind Ness," a typically Chongian blend of music, movement, images and text, for quite a while.

"I read it a number of years ago and just loved it," Nolan-Long said. "I passed it on to the company and we all fell in love with it. We had contacted his own company, which had toured the piece, and sent them reviews and stuff about Blind Parrot.

"They had hoped to produce it themselves in Chicago, but after two years or so they decided to let us do it."

Blind Parrot has often explored the far boundaries of theater in pieces such as "Oedipus Requiem" and Mac Wellman's "The Bad Infinity." Nolan-Long said that " `Kind Ness' seemed like a wonderful piece for us-we aren't movement artists per se, but we thought it was way overdue to explore movement more fully.

"We try to find ways of pulling people into more experimental works, and that's always a challenge, but here was a playwright who does a lot of that for you, in a very peaceful way."

In elliptical fashion, the piece delves into prejudice in America and assimilation and friendship, Nolan-Long said.

Ping Chong

Brian Shaw

Dan Guidara, Kent Modglin, Matt O?Neil, Martie Sanders, Jon Kellam, Bert Rudolph, Magica Bottari, Peggy Burr, Jeff Atkins

Eric Leonardson, Ed Thurman, John Roach, Steve Vasse-Hansel, Charles Jolls, Frances Maggio, Dan Guidara

Tags: Theater, , American, 1992