Traveling along Route 66 this past year, Thaddeus Phillips and Tatiana Mallarino found RV parks, drive-up diners and the mullet of accommodations: a wigwam motel consisting of free-standing, teepee-shaped rooms.
Phillips and Mallarino, co-directors and creative generators for theater company Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, drove from New York to Las Vegas seeking out Phillips' roots. Phillips says his grandfather was Abe Schiller, the Las Vegas hotel and casino promoter who wore a cowboy suit with flamingoes all over it and rubbed elbows with Howard Hughes and Gary Cooper.
For Phillips, the images of a bygone America provided a surreal, apocalyptic undertone when mixed with Las Vegas' bright lights and excessive energy use, carbon emissions and nuclear testing. For example, Phillips says that in the '50s, people sat in Las Vegas lounges and watched the horizon balloon with mushroom clouds from the atomic testing being done 65 miles away.
So he decided to create a play exploring the ecological disaster unraveling in our time, or as he calls it, "a theatrical movie ... that feels like a concert."
Flamingo/ Winnebago follows two characters. Muni is an Indian immigrant who owns a gas station in New Jersey. The other character is Thaddeus Phillips. That's not a mistake Phillips plays himself.
In the play, Muni finds out the North American bee is disappearing. Compelled by Einstein's quote that humanity will die off four years after the extinction of bees, Muni drives an RV across the country to find out what's happening.
At the same time, Phillips, a New York actor, is riding a bicycle in a television commercial shoot in New York City. He gets the sudden impulse to take off on the bike and ride to Las Vegas in search of information about his grandfather.
The two characters separately tread through the Western landscape, encountering misadventures and crazies. A stage-wide screen shows images of the West while a one-room structure in the center of the stage alternately serves as a diner, a gas station, a wigwam motel room, an RV park and the Winnebago. Based on a gas station along Route 66, the room has a large triangular awning and big windows, allowing the audience to see the screen behind it.
The doppelganger theme running through the production continues in Muni's character, played by Muni Kulasinghe. He performs the play's score live with his gypsy jazz band Le Chat Lunatique (or The Crazy Cat, for all you non-Parisians).
Fear not: Flamingo/Winnebago won't be all surreal Western landscapes, live jazz, wigwams and ecological crisis. Phillips says the mood will be comical, drawing on some element of absurdity in America's gluttonous consumerism.
Thursday-Friday, July 12-13, 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 14, 3 p.m.
CC's Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St.
Tickets: $15, $5 for students, or $10 with a CC ID; available in the Worner Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave. For more information, call 389-6607 or visit coloradocollege.edu.