The Lithuanians of Fresh Deathby Laura Barcella
Linas Phillips is a funny guy. As the mastermind behind the Campfire Show, presented at Galapagos in July, he just looks funny. Decked out in short shorts, a black leather vest, white socks, and sneakers, with a skinny blond trucker-trash mustache, it’s a pleasant surprise (and a refreshing change amidst today’s comedy/performance scene) when he opens his mouth and he really is funny.
Phillips, a performer who has worked in various dance, theatrical, and comedic incarnations around New York for the past six years, put the Campfire Show together as a sort of grown-up answer to the talent shows he experienced at summer camp as a boy—a kind of atmosphere where friends can get together with no mission except to entertain each other, minus excessive props or ornate sets. Incorporating dance, theater, comedy, video, and music, the Campfire Show is a cheap (five-dollar), performance art-driven version of the D.I.Y. kid thing of yore, but in the intimate, alcohol-fueled setting of a bar.
The Lithuanians of Fresh Death, a dance theater work co-created by Phillips and John Wyszniewski, was the last—and best—show in the hour-long, four-performance evening. In it, Phillips and Wyszniewski, along with Jo Williamson (the show’s sole female) merged dance, spoken word, guitar, and comedy into a silly, short spoof which very loosely focused on an alleged ancient Lithuanian myth about where animals’ spirits go when they die. Sporting silky maroon robes clinched with black leather rocker belts and sneakers, the threesome’s antics were offset by classic rock tunes à la AC/DC and Black Sabbath. Phillips provided running commentary as Wyszniewski and Williamson busted zany, ’80s-style dance moves while feigning olden-day Lithuanian-ism. The Galapagos crowd eagerly ate up the trio’s capers, showing particular enthusiasm for Phillips’ narration (he’d won us over earlier in the evening by singing faux-rap porn songs about sex in the shower).
At one of the show’s peaks, Williamson donned a bear costume, enacting a brutal slaying before whipping out an acoustic guitar and cooing a folk-song recount of the action. Things got stranger when the group stripped to their skivvies, wearing teeny costumes while solemnly jumping and smacking their way across the stage to the amusement of the crowd.
Speaking of the crowd, I’m not sure many of us knew what to make of this thing. Funny, creepy, ironic, serious, and smart, we seemed to shake our heads and laugh aloud at the bizarreness of it all (which was maybe the point?). But if there was a grander moral to The Lithuanians of Fresh Death, I didn’t catch it (and neither did my friend, or most of Galapagos’s patrons that night). But most laughed and no heads were turned from the stage, which is, presumably, good enough for this uncanny crew of performers.
Laura Barcella is a freelance writer based in Park Slope.