Walking into The Meaning of The Game Of LIFE, I was not uncertain what to expect. I like board games. Having grown up with the game in my house, I was a bit geeked to see a theatrical production it. But I had no idea what something like that would look like.
First, whether by chance or by design (though I suspect it was the former), I was offered complimentary Schlafly and tiny bottles of wine. Just one of those occasional Fringe bonuses that pop up– anything can happen here. I took my seat in front of a man, Peter Banholzer, standing behind a desktop computer on a rolling cart. He started a Power Point Presentation and began speaking.
Now, when I think of what constitutes a one-man show, as this had been advertised, I only expect a few things: the performer will present of memorized piece, generally accompanied by an action of some sort– I’ve seen people cut paper doll chains, act out entire casts of characters, and I saw one guy repeatedly attempt to spit in his own mouth. I know these shows can vary wildly, so I keep an open mind.
That said, The Meaning of the Game of LIFE, had neither of these things. It was, in effect, a 40 minute long lecture on the history of Milton Bradley and his most famous invention, The Game of LIFE. Banholzer was not without humor or charm; I would be at a loss to see a more entertaining historical presentation on the topic. He threw LIFE money on the floor and tossed his papers to the floor with dramatic flare. The visual presentation was great: his Power Point skill level is well beyond what I could ever hope to achieve. Still, he read the entire speech, which left the audience with unfortunately little eye contact. In the moments Banholzer seemed truly at ease, finding the humor in his subject matter, he sometimes mumbled to himself so, even in the second row, I could not quite hear him.
Banholzer’s show was informative. I definitely gleaned some new fun-facts to share at dinner parties. But, given the lack of what I would consider traditional theatrical elements, it begs the question: is this theatre? Can a man giving a minimalist presentation akin to an academic lecture be considered a play? Or performance art? A one-man show? Or does it fall under some general theatre umbrella? It’s a question I’m going to continue to ponder. What I do know is this: if The Meaning of The Game of LIFE is theatre, it is definitely on the fringe.