Stephen Lawson, half of the Canadian duo 2boys.tv, performs in Zona at the New Conservatory Theatre Center
Candian duo drags out, lip synchs through twilight `Zona’
Aaron Pollard and Stephen Lawson, who perform under the rubric 2boys.tv are campy performance artists.
They take the art of lip synching out of the gay bar and put it into a theatrical world where it both baffles and delights audiences.
Pollard and Lawson have descended into the United States from their artsy perch in Montreal, Canada to perform a limited engagement of their creation Zona at San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theatre Center.
Lawson is the lip-synching drag artist who performs, and Pollard is the behind-the-scenes guy who handles more of the tech stuff – the complex soundtrack mixing opera and dialogue from old movies – and the visually stunning video displays that allow Lawson to perform alongside video version of himself as well as with a growling naked man wearing a bear head.
This is bizarre stuff to be sure, but anyone familiar with consummate drag artists such as Lypsinka, who has raised lip synching to a formidable art, shouldn’t be surprised to see enterprising (and, OK, maybe a little pretentious) artists aiming to take the form even further.
Lawson, dragged out in black stockings, garter belts, a series of black gowns and a long black wig, looks like a cross between Sarah Brightman and Liza Minnelli. We first see him perform a shadow play about a woman, a bird and a giant cat. Or some such.
The only spoken dialogue in the 50-minute piece is Lawson intoning an Aubrey Beardsley poem. The rest is excerpted from opera and American cinema. We hear long excerpts of Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly Last Summer. If you listen closely, you’ll also catch Anne Baxter in All About Eve, Bette Davis in a number of movies, Shirley MacLaine in The Children’s Hour and some Miriam Hopkins, Gena Rowlands and Gracie Fields.
Rather than relying on plot, 2boys.tv seems to be after a feeling. This is intuitive storytelling, and it mostly works, though long-form lip synch such as this could benefit from a stronger narrative through line.
Lawson plays a woman crippled by fear. She is part nurse, part sensualist, and her fear is manifested in the form of the aforementioned naked bear. Before facing and vanquishing her fear, she must wander through some rather beautiful videoscapes.
Some of the most arresting images involve Lawson holding up the blank pages of a book onto which are projected words and images. Another involves a miniature theater in which a miniature Lawson interacts with the real-life, three-dimensional Lawson.
Whether or not you recognize all the film references, Zona is still intriguing, especially if you can let your brain just relax and receive the impressions rather than trying to make sense of the visual and audio scramble.
2boys.tv’s Zona continues through Aug. 31 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Tickets are $22-$34. Call 415-861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org for information.
Here are three scenes from an earlier version of Zona: