Agnostic's Way
Chamber Theatre, 800-965-4827. Through Jan 27.

THIS PERFORMANCE is not a play, but an amalgam of nonlinear song, movement, and discussion about the question Vincent Balestri poses: "Where do we go after we die?" While one obvious rejoinder--"What in our culture leads us to believe that we 'go' anywhere?"--isn't really addressed, Balestri creates an assemblage that is earnest and well served by his skilled sense of stage timing. Balestri (who previously performed the long-running Kerouac, and who showcased part of this performance in the Fringe 2000 Fest) begins as a spoofy TV talk show host. It isn't clear if that conceit is momentary, or if he maintains that character throughout the show--it seems he doesn't, though, for as the performer stands honest and barefoot before the audience, asking for stories and details about deaths of loved ones, he doesn't appear to be acting at all.

The night I was there, the audience was quite absorbed and appreciative of Balestri and the issues he touched upon: precognition of death, near-death experiences, and even factoids about the human heart's tissues--that they age and thicken as we get older. Absent from the actor's palette of responses to death was overt anger, though it seemed to leak out when he asked the audience members to close their eyes and imagine "being reduced to a handful of dust."

In a comely, clingy gown, with an affect reminiscent of antiquity, Kay Morrison helps narrate Balestri's movements and is onstage in an extremely traditional female role as pretty muse, assistant, and supporter.

All in all, though, this show will please lots of folks because everyone has questions about death and wonders what the experience is like. Balestri is upon the issues immediately, directly, and with gentle inquisitiveness, and his audience discussion and lulling guitar compositions are, for me, the best aspects of the piece.

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