David Dodd 2:53 a.m., May 21
The company's admirable mission: give voice to the voiceless (or as Jim Mullin, former editor of the Reader, used to demand of is writers, "tell me something I didn't know about San Diego"). Collaborating with artists from the community, they generate performances "from scratch."
The company's name comes from Jamie Kennedy and Stu Stone's song, which comes from a children's tune that, just by hearing it, will immunize you from cooties. In a way, the company does the same for non-traditional pursuits.
Case in point: Street.Art.Prophets offers five one-acts based on interviews with Graffitti taggers. What drives them to shake-click cans of acrylics and spray-paint walls. Whose walls are they? What are they communicating?
Taken together, the stories reveal glimpses of the impulse. But many have been written in haste and need more time to structure, pace, and percolate.
It would be hard to improve on Areta MacKelvie's set, a de-/re-construction of five concrete freeway supports tattooed with signs, slogans ("Wars are fought by babies"), and dreams - and places where an opposing crew "went up" and burned their name over the original.
The second one-act, Melissa Coleman-Reed's "FAIM & grunt," makes best use of the set. It's a flashlit journey through an eerie Underworld, as a young tagger introduces her friend to a haven of street art beneath I-15. The piece has a young, yet somehow ancient feel. But what starts out almost like Virgil leading Dante trails off into the predictable.
Katherine Harroff's "An Opening" takes a comical tour of the Upperworld of local art galleries. A young artist shows his work to various "experts" - who dress and act as if inside a funhouse mirror. The artist eventually goes underground, as expected.
Choreography, often satirical, runs throughout the evening. Michael Mizerany's dance-touches can't save "Glow," which commits one of writing's major bugaboos: when in doubt, tell your life story.
Wind Dell Woods' "Big Block Letters," with rap and rhythmic accompaniment on "found" objects, would improve instantly if the sounds didn't drown out the words, and the actors enunciated more clearly (of the five one-acts, this one offers the most insights into the why's and how's of Graffiti crews).
"Officer Jay," also by Harroff, takes place in San Francisco , in 1992, and tells what may be an actual encounter between a tagger (who just writes "Tupac" on the walls, in effect not using his own identity) and a compassionate cop who wonders why, and changes the tagger's life.
Directed by Adam Parker, who has an ear for Harroff's crisp dialogue, "Officer Jay" shows that, in many ways, Street.Art is the Patrick Kelly Show. Demonstrating a relaxed, impressive versatility, Kelly plays the cop, dances in "Glow," is several goofy galleryites in "An Opening," and is a young tagger in "Big Block Letters" desperate to get his name up and prove he's a genuine "writer."