Dallas — A celebration of solo performance is currently taking place at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts with a lineup of six artists in the fourth Dallas Solo Fest. One of these is Chris Davis, a Philadelphia native, who writes and performs his 55 minute solo piece, Drunk Lion, based on his three-year experience living with a Mexican host family in the lowlands city of Chiapa de Corzo, in the southernmost state of Chiapas.
He knew no Spanish upon arrival and his intent was to experience something vastly different from his hometown and to learn Spanish. And so this redheaded young gringo guy lands in one of the most remote areas of Mexico, bordering Guatemala. Chiapas is a state rich in natural resources but ranks among the poorest states in Mexico. It has had a long history of armed resistance to government corruption (take the neo Zapatista Movement of the 1990s) and abuse of indigenous Mayan peoples. Add to this a high incidence of machismo and alcoholism, and well, you get the picture.
Davis treads upon slippery ground in this piece, as his double personae, himself and the Mexican Drunken Lion, engage in a bilingual conversation in a lowdown cantina. (No worries, he repeats everything into English.) Playing a Mexican drunk (be he a metaphoric lion or not) can easily degenerate into unsavory cultural stereotypes, and to be honest, at first I cringed.
However, Davis does not fall into this pit, and the way he does it leads me to an analogy with another creature of the animal kingdom: the camel. While Chris begins portraying the Drunken Lion as, well, a drunken machista lion who says things like “a hole is a hole,” making an obvious reference to the female sexual orifice, he, as himself, then follows it with a sort of surreal deconstruction of the notion. That is chewed and regurgitated several times, each adding a more metaphysical layer of meaning until the hole becomes something that’s nothing short of an analogy for the meaning of life. In a hilarious twist of hyperbole, he does the same thing in the many Juanitas segments. Brilliant and hilarious. While the drunken lion is never anything more than this, Davis manages to not judge or moralize. He also frequently engages the audience in direct conversation.
Dressed down in a pair of torn jeans, gray high tops, and an orange T-shirt with “Jaguares” across his chest, his only props are a simple chair and three full bottles of Modelo beers, set up in a pyramid next to the chair. Directed by Mary Toumanen, a graduate of the Lecoq School of Movement Theatre in Paris, Davis’ economy of movement is one of the most interesting features of this performance. There is not a single clichéd movement in this piece, which is marked by high energy and wit.
Davis has participated in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and his One-Man Apocalypse Now will be presented in Germany as part of the Thespis Festival in 2018.
» Drunk Lion repeats at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 9; and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 10.