by Cole Sarar, photos by Cole Sarar
“A tiny postmodern story.
Once there was a guy.
He had a conflict.
He never resolves the conflict.
Such is the nature of humanity.”
Storyteller Philip Andrew Bennett Low is presenting “Pissing on the Great Wall” for one more Monday night at the Bryant Lake Bowl. The piece is autobiographical, and follows Philip in his journey back to China, to trace his roots with his family a second time, and fate, ritual, and repetition are big themes in the piece. The piece does a lot to discuss human nature, and specifically, Phil’s own nature, which is as absentminded and hopeless as it can be focused, determined, and reverent. We find ourselves returning to the Catholic faith with Phil, conflicted with some sort of superiority conflict grounded in an overblown sense of self-awareness. Phil is known for being wordy, densely written, and carefully choreographed with symbol and plot, something I really enjoy in his fiction, but is perhaps a bit contrived and unlikeable in autobiography.
But, with all the cerebral egotism, Phil does reveal some of his underpinning flaws, irrational and impractical side effects to all the intellectual masturbation. The most endearing scene in his piece involves accidentally setting his filthy kitchen on fire, as a result of his philosophical daydreaming- and being unable to make the deduction of what a reasonable person does when their kitchen is on fire, and instead incurring quite a bit of smoke inhalation.
The piece is funny, tragic, and- as non-fiction is not fiction, does not tie up neatly. Watching Philip is a bit like reading a Martin Amis book. Every realization Phil makes on his trip back to his ancestral village is rendered moot by the fact that he is tied to reliving his first trip out there, and his own dedication to tradition and ritual. I have the feeling that this piece, a sequel to the very popular Descendant of Dragons, is better having seen the first piece.
Philip is one of my favorite storytellers in town- when he allows himself some of the agency and free will that he gives some of his characters, his autobiographical pieces may escape the postmodern tragedy. Ultimately, his show at the BLB is a solid piece, a great pursuit for a snowy Monday night. There’s one more you can catch this coming Monday night at 7pm. Check the Rockstar Storyteller Calendar for more details.