Not many people – 13, to be exact – could say they saw a man, dressed up in a rotund, elastic yellow suit, lead them out of the sweltering Pentagon Room at Flat Irons Arts Building (1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and into the streets of Wicker Park to conclude a monologue about how art can connect the otherwise unconnected and lonely.
But then, not every show is Honeybuns, a performance artist whose avant-garde one-man antics closed out Sunday’s run of the 12th annual Sketchbook mixed media festival Sunday night.
Sunday was Sketchbook’s full eight-hour block of experimental theater programming, ranging from exclusively premiered short plays, to interview shows, to dance, to full hour-long productions such as Honeybuns, the creation of artist Dean Evans.
As a performance artist, Honeybuns breaks through the fourth wall like a bright, neon yellow-colored Kool Aid Man, then carefully rebuilds it brick by brick through absurdist monologues, contemporary interpretations of mime, and ribald humor, echoing both Spaulding Gray and Russell Brand with a single turn of phrase.
Of course, what goes up must come down. Patrons needn’t wait but the slightest of seconds before a devilish glare flares up in Honeybuns’s skeletally painted eyes to know he’ll crash through the walls he rebuilt once again. The fact that it does to the sound of frequent belly laughs from its audience, who’re expertly cajoled and–echoing insult comics of past–mocked into participation, makes Honeybuns that much sweeter.
Getting to that sweet spot, though, requires a modicum of patience. For every neat turn of trick – either in the form of a sharp one-liner or subversion of audience expectations through participation bits – there were odd, off-putting updates of mime, through the juxtapositions of beautiful adagios with pulsating dubstep.
Evans is an expert at his craft, but the attempts to update the artform into something provocative and modern often fell flat. (Evans seemed to acknowledge as much, saying at the end of one mime, “that’s how you fill three minutes of stage time with five seconds of shit material.”)
Fortunately, humor is humor, and charm is charm, and Evans has enough of both to get past any bumps in the avant-theater road. Many laughs are accumulated by the time Evans subverts the childhood game of ‘telephone’, encourages an audience coup d’etat, and unwraps a Russian nesting doll’s worth of unopened gifts. (Even if there are times where the shtick borders into eye-rolling Robin Williams-isms.)
What is most unexpected—and what ultimately makes Honeybuns’s performance such a delightful surprise after the many shenanigans—is the both the deep hints of melancholy that surface in the monologues (“there’s hours of loneliness in the outside world that goes into producing this show”) and Evans’ strident, articulate defenses of unusual art.
“There’s no such thing as dead art,” Evans, affecting an aristocratic London accent, said. “Misunderstood, yes. Unpopular, yes. [But] an art form doesn’t die, unless we all die, and even then, it just might keep on going.
With his unusual, but ultimately satisfying, one-man show, Honeybuns ensures a multiple of art forms aren’t going anywhere.
-By Jon Graef