FRINGE SHORTS: “You Are Not Paris” by Stages Theatre Company and Jon Ferguson

Lightsey Darst thoroughly enjoyed this postmodern, playfully clever examination of "normality" and the science of the mind.


“OGLE THE CONDITIONS, NOT THE PEOPLE,” the doctor advises you at the beginning of Stages Theatre Company and Jon Ferguson‘s You Are Not Paris, a clever little faux-clinical, meta-look at such Oliver Sacks-ian mental rearrangements as synesthesia, Capgras delusion, and Paris syndrome (extreme exhaustion, confusion, or disappointment experienced in Paris, typically by Japanese tourists).

Jon Ferguson’s name drew me to this show, and sure enough, here is the trademark Fergusonian mix of humor and pathos, the clever back-chat (“don’t touch the science”), and especially the attention to detail (characters spritz fake plants or winsomely turn themselves around in office chairs by windmilling their arms). Ferguson may also be behind the show’s inconsistent but super cute meta-level, in which every patient is a physician and even the projections know this is a show. “Just find your lab coat,” one character advises another when her segment as a case study is done. “That’s how we exit here.”

Ferguson’s collaborators, the bright young actors of the Stages Theatre Company, seem to be enjoying themselves and their roles immensely. True, one actor appeared to be mostly enjoying having so much attention, and another did not appear to be enjoying anything, but overall it’s easy to laugh and smile with them. And sometimes they transcend funny and actually transport you into another perception, as when one synesthete tours the color wheel, dipping into the rich spread of sensations (cool, shrill, sweet, crunchy, etc) that is a synesthete’s world.

The ideas emerging from You Are Not Paris are what you might expect from postmodern take on mental disorder: we are all locked into our perceptions, which are only “right” or “healthy” in so far as they coincide with majority perceptions, and any perception, even a “wrong” one, will have its beauty and interest. But this idea emerges more organically and engagingly from the show; see for yourself.


Related performance details:

You Are Not Paris, by Stages Theatre Company and Jon Ferguson, is on stage at the Mill City Clinic in Minneapolis. Remaining shows: August 12 (7 pm), 13 (7 pm), 14 (7 pm), 15 (2:30 pm)

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About the author: Originally from Tallahassee, Lightsey Darst is a poet, dance writer, and adjunct instructor at various Twin Cities colleges. Her manuscript Find the Girl has just been published by Coffee House; she has also been awarded a 2007 NEA Fellowship. She hosts the writing salon, “The Works.”