If you could spend an hour in a room with the Beatles, what would you want to ask them? Dave Jay’s improvised performance piece subtitled “an intimate experience with the fab four” offers Fringe-goers a chance to experience this fantasy. Letting the audience lead the performance, Jay uses his voice, facial expressions and imagination and conjures each of the Beatles to respond to our questions. The experience is as fun as a ride on a yellow submarine.
Jay is a generous performer who respects his inspiration but is also willing to poke affectionate fun at their personalities. From what I could see he is ready to respond to any question that comes his way, and if he seemed a little nervous at the beginning of his opening night show, once the Q-and-A started flowing he found his stride.
Of the Fab Four, his voice, body, and quirky imagination seem most vividly to sit with George Harrison, who observes the past from a spiritual if sometimes cranky distance. He describes how the smells and sounds of India influenced his music and contemplates the ontological importance of an onstage teapot, but it stilI ruffles his feathers that Paul kept much of his contributions off the records. Ringo comes across as fun and heartfelt, and gets the many laughs of the evening. Question: What did you have that Pete Best didn’ t? Ringo: A job.
Of the entire group, Jay’s evocation of Paul McCartney feels the least specific. The bouncy head and high voice didn’t help me picture McCartney in the room. Still, I loved it when Paul postulated an earnest response as to whether he believes that we all live in a yellow submarine. And when speaking about today’s popular music, Paul made a self-centered but sincere argument that he invented hiphop! Jay looks the most like John Lennon, who takes himself seriously and talks to us with intense focus. When asked about his sex life with Yoko, John wasn’t suffering fools. But later in the evening, reflecting on losing his life and not being able to watch his sons grow up, Jay/John expressed a tender, regretful acceptance of his Ioss that went far beyond parlor tricks.
Occasionally, Jay breaks from the talkback format to sing his own songs. He doesn’t have rights to perform Beatles songs, but justifies it well when one of the bands shrewdly quips, “We don’t own our music anymore.” Jay’s tunes are sweet, and seem like they may be inspired by the Beatles; but it’ s very tough for any song to get its fair due with all the focus on, arguably, some of the best popular music ever written.
This piece relies in large part on its audience to provide a steady stream of interesting questions, and the opening night audience did just that. Director and co-creator Brad Calcaterra has helped Jay be ready for anything and to find a distinct vocal and rhythmic energy for each man. Stylist Maria Cullalti provides the iconic Beatle haircut that transfers across all the guys I’d just request a little trim across the bangs. One performance issue still needs to be addressed: who is he when he’s NOT speaking for one of the Beatles? Jay doesn’t speak in his own voice, but in between the questions, there’s a drop in energy and it feels like no one’s in charge. During these breaks, small but frequent, the momentum halts and the press conference structure starts to wear thin. Clearly, each show and audience will bring its own rhythm, but it seems as if the concept works best when Jay gives more time to provide expansive answers, and the occasional moments where the Beatles start talking (or quipping) with each other are great fun. If you’ re a Beatles fan and go to this intimate rock-and-roll event armed with some provocative questions, you may experience your own magical mystery tour.