Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: The Missouri Show Me The 1980s Childhood Show

By Ed Malin

The Idaho Jackson Action Playset is a very personal 1980s one-man show by Brad Lawrence now playing in the Frigid Festival. Cyndi Freeman directs this focused ride through the intersection of school fights, lunchboxes, first crushes, nuclear holocaust and AIDS.
Brad Lawrence, wearing a Wilma Deering t-shirt (see: Buck Rogers) gives us a touching, rapid-fire story about his second grade life.  We jump around a bit getting a lot of evocative details until we firmly understand the challenges of being the eighth and youngest child in the family.  Hand-me-down clothing (usually way too big) is a given but this can make a kid feel like he is only a knock-off version of a real child.  “Like a GoBot in a word of Transformers”, if you will.  Like an “Idaho Jackson” Action Figure, a nice joke for those who were children at the time and had Action Jackson toys.
photo by Ryan Collerd
Brad rips through the story of his first kiss and chance to walk a girl home, which was made easier because he was banned from the school bus.  This happened because he hit a bully on the head with a creaky metal Raggedy Ann and Andy lunchbox inherited from a sister.  The replacement lunchbox was a plastic Spiderman item in a very manly shade of yellow.
Then came summertime in Missouri, and the customary but noxious trip to the zoo.  July temperatures are “measured in Kelvins”.  Children vomit regularly, especially when harassed by animals in enclosures with non-realistic environments.  “Not since Pompeii have so many people regretted wearing open-toed sandals.”
Brad ends up spending more time at home, where he is dismayed by TV talk shows about how the suburbs are rife with Satanism.  Even more alarming is the anti-nuclear film “The Day After”.  Being destroyed by nuclear weapons is nothing compared to the plight of Kansas residents who end up surviving.  The one stable factor in Brad’s life is his mother, a traveling insurance evaluator who collects fluid samples from clients.  However, the regular presence of these samples on the family’s dining room table leads to a huge panic about newly-identified HIV/AIDS.  What is the best way to live safely, or at least to feel safe?
Hats off to Lawrence and Freeman for painting such a detailed picture of suburban childhood circa 1983. A lot happens in an hour of memories. If your initial reaction is that this would be a safe and boring story, see the show and take heed.  Who knows, some of the historic concerns in the play, such as a nuclear standoff, may be part of our future.   I am glad that Frigid is back with this thoughtful one-man show.