Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Josh Hitchens IS Jeffrey Dahmer (Again)


Those who read my blog on a regular basis know that I think that Josh Hitehens is a cultural treasure. Six years ago, Marianne and I had the privilege of seeing his original one-man performance as a serial killer in a play he wrote himself, The Confession of Jeffrey Dahmer. Last night, we saw it again, in the company of Samuel R. Delany, Dennis Rickett and Bill Wood. 

So, half a decade later and half an hour longer, how does the performance hold up?

It's still terrifying.

The basement space at the Art Church of West Philadelpia wasn't as scary a venue as the near-lightless garage of the original performance. But it's still an intimate experience that puts you very close to a man the likes of which you pray you never run into. (Chairs are set up for seventeen audience members -- one for each of the men and boys Dahmer murdered, though director Ryan Walter says that if anybody is absolutely desperate to see the play, he can slip in a couple of extra chairs.) And Hitchens does a miraculous job of putting the audience in the mind of someone at the extremes of human thought and experience.

This time around, I was struck by how funny the play was. After his performance, Hitchens returned to discuss the play with the audience. Everyone was free to leave if they they wished; nobody did. So I asked about those lines. "About 85% of he play is taken directly from Jeffrey Dahmer's only words," Hitchens said. "All the funny lines were verbatim."

So for ninety minutes or so, we got t live inside the mind of a monster--and a human being. Because the monologue's intent is not to exploit the sensationalistic aspects of what happened--though those were not whitewashed, either--but to give us an idea of what it would be like to be such a man.

There's a line from the original version, since revised, which I like to quote every now and then: "I slept with over a hundred men and boys and I only killed and ate seventeen of them. I think that should count for something." Imagine that said in a flat, affectless voice and now you have some idea of whether you want to see this or not.

But whether it's your sort of thing or not, it's an astonishing performance, a magnificent piece of theater, the sort of accomplishment that justifies is art and its genre.

There are still a few tickets left, I believe, though the run ends on the 17th.  If you wish, you can buy tickets here.

And I Cannot Resist  Including . . .

After the show I took a snap of Chip Delany and Josh Hitchens together. Two very brilliant creators, though in different media.

Note Ryan Walter in the background, aware of the camera and posing for it. That's a true man of the theater. I like his attitude.

Above: Photos by Michael Swanwick and free to use, so long as you include a credit. I should mention that the photo on top is of Josh Hitchens as himself; he looks quite different when he's being Dahmer.


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