One of the missing pieces of the jigsaw theatrical cum performance-art puzzle that is “Billy the Mountain and Other Wartime Stories”—inspired by and built around a set of 1972 lyrics courtesy of musical neo-fusionist Frank Zappa—is the spectator’s response to it. The sliver of a narrative that runs through this Striding Lion InterArts Workshop-developed piece concerns a mountain named Billy, his wife Ethel (a tree) and their Vietnam-era draft-dodging flight across America (or something like that), its main purpose to string together a series of musical and sketch-like ironic commentary-meditations on war throughout our recent history and its place—or lack of—in our modern-day consciousness. This is accomplished by means of an anthropomorphic, interpretive-dancing mountain, slide-show projections, sung and spoken vignettes and jam sessions of original music all performed by an indefatigable ensemble of interdisciplinary performers. Given that there will be as many interpretations of this sensory-assaulting overload as there are audience members, I can only impart that for me it was a brilliant mess of textual and spatial exploration that—lacking any narrative cohesion or consistency of imagery—failed to impress upon me any of its agitprop, the experience at the Elbo Room the theatrical equivalent of having gone to an amusement park but not partaken in any of its rides. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
The Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Avenue, (773) 561-0494. Thu 7:30 pm. $12. Through July 28.