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    Can't Get Started

    Some more Chao fun

    Tom X. Chao's continues his satirical exploration of his deepest anxieties — and maybe yours — in "Can't Get Started."


    When we last saw Tom X. Chao, he was not visible. He was under a black blanket in an almost fully darkened room in the one-man show "The Negative Energy Field," deeply intoning into a microphone all the perceptively chilling reasons not to get out of bed for the new millennium. It was the show that made me think I had finally found the fringe in last year's Fringe Festival.

    Written and directed by: Tom X. Chao.
    Cast: Basey Newborg, Tom X. Chao.

    Related links: Official site
    Chao's new show, "Can't Get Started," takes the concept of black humor a bit less literally — the lights are turned on, and the blanket is not a major character — but this show has the same bleak but often darkly funny willingness to look straight into the inner void. Chao calls it "a suicide note of a play."

    In fact, it's barely a play. It starts with grim effectiveness as Basey Newborg — an attractive and capable but, most importantly in this case, quite normal-seeming actress — tells us about her character's life with a lousy, self-centered boyfriend whom she hasn't quite realized she doesn't like yet. A twist, though, brings Chao onstage as himself, and the conventions of theater (disrespected as they may already be) get thoroughly disregarded. Is what follows a sketch-comedy show, a performance piece, a deconstructed puppet show, or a simple cry for help?

    Most likely it's Chao's cry for help, if not a play about a cry for help starring Chao as himself. Why doesn't a nice, normal girl fall for a King Crimson-loving, science-fiction-reading, T-shirt and Dockers-wearing, 'Net-working, well-meaning but geeky sort of guy instead of that lunkhead she's with in the opening monologue? Why does such a guy have to write a play in which she acts like she likes him just to get her to act like she likes him?

    One suspects that Chao's life is not as relentlessly pathetic as that of "Tom X. Chao" the character played by himself. The real Chao has so much to live for — not least, his ability to satirize the negative energy field of our minds.

    OCTOBER 5, 2000

    Reader comments on Can't Get Started:

  • Don't miss this one!   from randy, Oct 13, 2000

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