Reggie Watts: Disinformation at the Public Theater
No question, Reggie Watts—he of the shaggy head; still, handsome face; stunningly flexible vocal chords—is a smart, creative, dynamic and often quite funny performer with a lot on his mind... the way we communicate, for instance, and language in general, and technology worship, and identity, corporate/authoritarian doublespeak (whether delivered by lackeys from the fictional conglomerate Carnaidesai—"There's not much future left, but we're using all of it..."—or a Star Wars-inspired "Dark Lord"), and the seemingly imminent destruction of our planet, and self-righteous bullshit of all kinds.
Anyway, I was lucky enough to snag a seat at Watts's almost-one- man-show Disinformation (he was joined by some dancers for what I thought to be the night's weakest moments), directed (and co-written?) by Tommy Smith, playing at the Public Theater as part of their annual Under the Radar Festival. Given the breadth and depth of Watts's concerns, and the energy and spark with which he conveys his many themes, I was surprised that I found the whole thing a bit repetitive, and was much more engaged—and laughed a lot more frequently—during the hour-long show's first half.
That said, Watts is a compelling stage presence, who excels at, for example, delivering empty phrases with such conviction that you're tempted, for a second, to ascribe them with meaning (he explains that a piece of sound equipment on stage "does everything it's been engineered to do by the people who created it"); mangling words for comic (deeper?) effect (in one bit, he tells of taking his "grainfather" to "Sweatserland" and pushing him off the "bal-CONE-y"); and telling shaggy dog stories that somehow remain interesting even as they spiral out of control with ever-more ridiculously unimportant details.
Best of all, Watts is a superb human beat box, creating on-the-spot, multi-layered looping rhythms and melodies with a delayer, and then overlaying the mix with often hilarious rap/soul-ified improvised lyrics. My favorite: the insanely intricate, rapid-fire description of his camouflage suit.
Disinformation's Under the Radar run ended yesterday, but you should definitely try to catch this man's stage show the next time he comes around, no matter what he's doing. Until then, there are lots of Reggie Watts videos online. Here's one of the best.