VesperTime is a charismatically witty yet painful and honest new work by Stacy Makishi. The performance humorously weaves ideas together: the undercurrents of Tracy Chapman’s song Fast Car; the scientific discovery of the world’s loneliest whale; the story of Moby Dick; and the oxymoron that is Demi Moore’s name, in order to unpick Stacy’s troublesome relationships with her father(s), God, and herself.
Stacy uses humour to open the hearts of her audience. In VesperTime she facilitates this effortlessly by, for example, asking two bearded audience members to playfully duel for the title of being her temporary father; asking the audience to collectively support her in her mission to muster the energy to put on a pair of platform shoes by singing a chorus of belonging (Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car); and, juxtaposing one of the cringiest love scenes in Ghost (the film staring Demi Moore) with the soundtrack of a whale’s lonely call.
But the laugh that Stacy encourages is a complicated laugh. She strategically weaves complex and uncomfortable emotions together with humour, cunningly forcing the audience to encounter difficult and uncomfortable emotions. I laughed, I swallowed waves of emotions to stop myself from crying, and finally, I cried.
Stacy lays bare her stories of abandonment, re-connection, loss, and regret. Her histories are delivered in a wittily absurd sermon-like format that asks the audience to ultimately take the risk and allow themselves to be vulnerable by opening their hearts to feeling.
At one point Stacy shares the story of ‘the loneliest whale in the world’: the only individual whale that has been detected to communicate at an unusual 52 Hz and as its call patterns are undetectable by others of its species it has been described as the world’s loneliest whale – its calls remaining forever unanswered. Stacy references this example throughout the performance, juxtaposing multiple difficult emotional moments with the sonic signature of a whale’s lonely call, often resulting in complex laughter; also by using several whale related metaphors, and by asking the audience to open an envelope (sealed with a stamp of a whale) and write a demi-letter to someone they wish they had told or could tell something of significance to. The letters were then collected and put in a letter box, never to be answered.
The last example painfully resonates with Stacy’s story of having withheld the letters she wrote to her biological father out of anger. And receiving the tragic news of his death on the day she had finally decided to revoke her protest.
VesperTime weaves together a manic plethora of narratives that proves dramaturgically difficult to follow at times. But Stacy’s raw and charismatic wit shoots through any sense of confusion, carrying us with it.
I admire Stacy’s raw and loving energy. It was refreshing to experience something so humorously absurd containing such powerful substance. Stacy Makishi managed to open my heart with complex laughter.