rude mechs

The Rude Mechs in "Method Gun"/Courtesy of G. Wilson and TBA

I approached the Rude Mechs show The Method Gun with some skepticism. I generally detest art about art, with its usual insider references (or so I thought) and the premise sounded  oh-so-meta: a theater piece about a theater company’s staging of a theater production. Happily, the Austin-based company merely used the subject matter as a vehicle to do what the best theater always does: tells us about who we are and why we do what we do. In giving us a deliciously deceptive story about art, they’re telling us about ourselves, artists and non artists alike.

It’s really a story about an absence — though not the big lacuna alleged in the story, which concerns a famous (though fictional) theater director named Stella Burden, who devised a way of making theater more real called “The Approach,” and if this sounds suspiciously like a famous nonfictional Stella (Adler) and “The Method” she created, it’s hardly an accident. (As for the surname, I wonder if it references the Los Angeles artist Chris Burden, who wanted to make art with so much impact that he staged a performance in which a collaborator actually shot him. He survived and is happily making art to this day; I visited his Los Angeles studio a few years ago, where he was making a big installation involving old lightposts.)

Stella B’s conceit is to stage a version of A Streetcar Named Desire — without Stanley, Stella, Mitch or Blanche. Like them, Burden never appears in The Method Gun. The show is about the actors she left behind, somewhat like Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is about the bit players in Hamlet. “She gave us ourselves, and now we don’t even have that,” one wails.