Though The Little Chaos takes its title from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1966 short, it’s primarily a deconstruction of the director’s first feature, the deconstructionist Love Is Colder Than Death. Using text not only from Fassbinder’s films, but also from Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, even a postmodernist novel called The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme, the play is a heady Brechtian mashup that surprisingly charms rather than ironically alienates.
With the smallest of crew and cast (direction and adaptation by Stiven Luka, designer/assistant director/stage manager William Moody, costumes by Enver Chakartash, and starring Brock Harris, Ronald Peet, and Raimonda Skeryte), The Little Chaos is gripping experimental theater that becomes more than the sum of its refreshingly unpredictable and excitingly inventive parts (this certainly marks the first time I’ve seen characters shoplift plastic toy food). Stepping into the gangster roles of Franz, Bruno, and Johanna, and thus into the big shoes of Fassbinder, Ulli Lommel, and Hanna Schygulla, Harris with his leather jacket and short-fuse body language, a bewigged Peet with his suit, tie, and air of insouciance, and Skeryte with her fake German accent and gun moll’s resignation, turn what could have been caricature into believable truth with their taut timing and committed dramatic acting—which is what makes the light comedy so very funny.
And Moody’s lighting and set design render the white-walled, barebones set bigger than life. Indeed, not only the actors, but such inanimate elements as the production’s sound design and eclectic score, its vintage costumes, retro hairstyles, and madcap props (including children’s toys, even paper dolls and teeny guns) are all parts that coalesce into a functioning, organic production. Because the actors listen to each other and stay in the moment they build a fake world that’s nuanced and not over-the top—that doesn’t try too hard but just is—evoking an era and an atmosphere. The trio could have just emerged from a Godard film or a Walsh western—though one with an alternate ending that makes room for German subtitles projected onto a back wall.
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