Falling in love means taking a risk, and Rudi Goblen takes plenty of risks in his new solo theater piece, PET.
In this exploration of the mysterious and often absurd agonies of an essential human bond, Goblen hurls himself off emotional and theatrical cliffs to startling, funny and sometimes riveting effect. If he doesn’t quite resolve the really ( really) big questions he raises – Why does love make us feel the way it does? Why does it make us do such crazy stuff? Why do we need it so? – he digs into them deeply and unpredictably.
The third Goblen piece Miami Light Project has commissioned, PET opened to a sold-out crowd Friday at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood. An accomplished hip-hop dancer as well as a performer with choreographer-directors Rosie Herrera and Teo Castellanos, Goblen, 32, attracted a richly culturally varied, multi-generational audience from the Miami arts world and beyond
In PET, he turns his hip-hop skills; intense, off-kilter movement; staccato, beat-box vocalizing and poetic, from-the-gut writing into a vividly original language. Director Michael Yawney gets a more emotionally daring and dramatically nuanced performance from Goblen than in his previous solo pieces.
PET is framed as a support group for serial monogamists, with Goblen the director at the center of the audience, inveigling us first to join in, then to witness his confessionals and unraveling. The title, it turns out, is an acronym for Preventing Educating Teaching Center for the Broken-Hearted, Partners for Eternity Temporarily and a few other choice and unprintable phrases.
The show opens with Goblen as a kind of slick entertainer-storyteller in a dark suit, watched by the audience from behind a curtain of black ropes that frames the performing area. But once he invites us in, the group therapy setup creates an uneasy intimacy; we’re all in this together.
The cracks quickly show in Goblen’s resolutely cheerful, slightly smarmy demeanor, as he explains that he’s here to help us – and himself – deal with love.
“Not smart-phone love. Not Internet love. The kind of love that when your lover walks out they take your breath away with them … until they walk back in because they couldn’t breath either.”
Of course, that kind of love isn’t overcome by the self-help cliché proffered in the brochures Goblen distributes: “Love your fabulous self first, and everything else will be OK.”
As he roams the audience, hugging and glad-handing, his body vibrates and twists, lips stuttering in staccato, as if he’s shaking apart. His advice and assurance keep veering into blunt, cynical, cliché-warping humor — he describes one relationship as “eat, talk, sex, laugh, love, rinse, repeat” and another as “Disney on ecstasy” — and into stunningly raw stories and confessions.
“I want to crack my chest open to show you how my heart beats when you’re around,” he says to an unseen lover; to peel off his skin, turn it inside out and wrap it around her so she can be “cozy.”
Whew. And this is the guy who’s going to help us deal with romance?
Goblen took his biggest risk when he brought in three audience volunteers to play symbolic roles in the story of a love triangle that starts funny and goes brutally dark. He doesn’t quite resolve what it means that love can turn into its opposite – or all the specters of need and contradiction he has raised throughout. But he takes us into the depths with him.