Rosy Carrick has drawn a relatively small audience on the day I'm seeing her latest piece of theatrical spoken word. There's nothing wrong with this, obviously, as numbers should and do vary over the course of the month. What the modest attendance does do, however, is render her show's high production values something of an incongruous distraction, the performer taking to the stage accompanied by a fanfare of rock music and slick digital graphics. Passionate Machine feels high budget, like the science fiction staples it references, but a glossy sheen distances us from what is actually an intensely emotional narrative.
The star is enamoured with poet and dissident Vladimir Mayakovsky. At the beginning of the show she kisses a picture of his face before going on to reveal that she learned Russian specifically to gain a better understanding of his work, and that she forced his New York-based daughter into a long-distance friendship. Most recently, she completed a PhD on Mayakovsky and edited a book of his work. The story presented to us concerns time-travelling Carrick's attempts to meet her hero before his suicide at age 36, and the various set backs, disappointments and traumas art has helped her endure.
Passionate Machine is an engaging piece that deftly blends fact and fiction, though ultimately too many pop culture references threaten to suffocate the compelling autobiography at its core.