When you leave Happy to Be Here, you will probably say something like, "Wow, that was amazing. Randy Kovitz and Paul Bernstein are really talented guys. But what the hell is it?"
Kovitz and Bernstein created Happy to Be Here, and they probably wouldn't be insulted by the question. The show has many scenes, a sparse (but existent) set, live guitar, digital projections, and lots of very fast, very intense, very ironic surrealist poetry. The story, to use the term loosely, is guided by scattershot opinions and sensations, physical comedy and a pantomimed saber duel.
So maybe it's a kind of multimedia poetry jam. Maybe it's "performance art," if the term still has meaning. Maybe it's a live installation piece, or a punk cabaret, or a rhythmic rant. The program calls it "Digitally Enhanced Rock N Roll Theatre." I'd call it a postmodern tone poem. However you classify it, Happy to Be Here is a great, great time.
Kovitz is a peculiar presence. He wears glasses, his hair is short, he's neither old nor young, his body neither small nor large. When he leans over the audience, zapping it with run-on sentences, he doesn't seem menacing or enraged, only very neurotic. Behind him, a video displays cars caught in multi-lane traffic, a woman singing, bombs exploding. Most peculiar of all is Kovitz's voice -- as controlled and sardonic as Phil Hartman's, but then suddenly liquefying into song. Kovitz can really sing; he can really play percussion. After awhile, it doesn't matter what he's talking about. In one of his diatribes, he uses the word "Jungian." The whole show is Jungian, really -- an impressionist story about a Renaissance man in an abstract world. For 60 minutes, we get to climb inside Kovitz's noisy head. The show's title may be ironic, but by the end, everyone really is happy to be here.
In a way, Kovitz's preoccupations are a little dated. As he versifies, Kovitz expresses frustration over money, relationships, working too hard and information overload. In the 1990s, these were big concerns -- the frenzy of high-tech society and multi-tasking lifestyles inspired so much pop culture about people "snapping": Falling Down, Natural Born Killers, Office Space, American Beauty, Fight Club. While the culture has lately resigned itself to cell phones and multiple jobs, Kovitz is still overwhelmed. Yet he doesn't snap. Happy to Be Here ends sweetly, like a relaxing camping trip on a long weekend.
Never mind what the hell it is. Just see it.
Happy to Be Here continues through Nov. 17. Bricolage Theatre, 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 213-422-7587