Sometimes, the usual career gurus just don't cut it. When you're really down and out, when the recession threatens to quash once and for all your dreams of a career in the arts, you have to look beyond Craigslist and advice columns, past the usual contacts and mentors ... and maybe dispense with mortals entirely.
Well, not entirely. Dionysus is only a half-god. She is played by Trixxie Carr, and channeled by four down-and-out artists (Travis Santell Rowland, Angelica Roque, Norm Munoz, and Jarrad Webster), in Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dionysus, a "Greek comedy rock epic" at CounterPULSE. She may or may not have been kicked off Mount Olympus, and it's uncertain whether she has any real powers to aid in the arts, despite being the god(dess) of theater.
But she has had a lot of jobs, and she's all too happy to share the wisdom of her experience with the hapless mortals, provided they play the part of reverential audience to her self-aggrandizement, and she is afforded all the theatrical devices her heart desires.
Under the direction of Ben Randle, Hold Me Closer is effusive in its theatricality and generous in its silliness. When Dionysus enters, it is with all the false majesty of a prideful clown about to tumble far: Sporting a silver sequined bustier and miniskirt, lacy stockings and garters, a platinum wig and a mink stole, Carr (who also wrote the script) is pushed in on a ramshackle sailboat by her inexplicably mute servant (Talia Lipskind), but always with her chin held high (that is, to better chug a bottle of wine).
The impatient mortals are quick to question this façade, but Tiny Diny (though, as she says, she "was never tiny where it counts") always has enough bravado to get them to listen to one more anecdote. She guides them through her resume, which includes drag performance, BDSM, and phone sex. Puppets, 1980s tunes such as "We Built This City," props descending from the ceiling, and period costumes popping out of drunks all come to her aid -- as do the mortals themselves, who are all only too ready to join in the striptease.
Often, however, Randle does not sustain the magic of his vision through an entire scene. Almost every new costume change or pop number gets a laugh or energizes the pace, but between those repetitive dialogue dominates. It's hard, scene after scene, to listen to a group of four undifferentiated characters whine about how they don't want to work at Starbucks anymore. Music, too, deadens as often as it enlivens: At times Carr performs full versions of songs instead of just a verse and a chorus. Pleasant as her rock star belt is to listen to, the play simply doesn't achieve the depth of emotion that would justify such protracted bursts into song.
One glorious exception is Carr's performance of Hall & Oates' "One on One," which she performs as a lip sync serenade to two dildos, one silver, one gold, about eight feet apart. So specific were her facial expressions and gestures that each dildo became a full character with distinct personality traits, each competing for her love. As she felt pulled from one to another, trying to placate each device and fulfill its desire, Carr offered both an absurdly comic act of pantomime and an ingenious comment on the nature of burlesque.
With some judicious cutting, Hold Me Closer could fully become the silly romp it wants to be. Until then, there's a little too much foot-dragging for it to really get off the ground.