Hey New Yorkers, get your shit together and go see my hombre Andrew Dinwiddie and his resurrection of Jimmy Swaggart. GET MAD AT SIN!:
In meticulously recreating one of Mr. Swaggart’s early 1970s culture-war sermons (from a vinyl record) in “Get Mad at Sin!” Andrew Dinwiddie reintroduces us to a gifted orator, compelling performer and thunderous moralizer in his prime. It’s a surprisingly generous act of resuscitation.
Strutting back and forth on a pink carpet, kicking up his legs and swooning at his own rhetoric, Mr. Dinwiddie as Mr. Swaggart breaks into a sweat but never loses his cool. He tosses in theatrical pauses and even some slang to attack the evils of homosexuality, premarital sex and acid rock. Mr. Dinwiddie’s powerful voice contains the echo of the great Baptist preachers as well as a breathy rumble that approaches the erotic.
But this is no Reverend Billy-like satire featuring winks at the hipster crowd or political cheap shots. The director, Jeff Larson, lets this fascinating historical document, which diagnoses a culture lurching toward oblivion, speak for itself, absent biography, context or comment. It’s an interesting strategy and emphasizes the stemwinder as a work of theater.
I'll spare you the lengthy cultural diatribe, but I'm fucking pissed that I'll miss this by a week. It's exciting to see my erstwhile creative peers begin coming into their own, and I really like the sound of this work. First of all because Andrew could conjour humidity on stage like nobody's business, and I have no doubt this performance is something of a tour-de-force; but moreover because of how it's constructed.
See, my generation — if I may be so bold — is post-post-modern. Not to be cheeky (we'll find a better term) but the simple deconstructive irony that seemed so bold and vital say 20 years ago is, well, boring. You can't just mock something and expect that to work. Nor can you reduce something to a pile of pieces and say you've done anything really worthy of anyone's attention.
In the spirit of those oversmart drunk-asses in Portland, I'd say we're moving on into a phase of (re)-reconstruction, or maybe we've come all the way 'round to some sort of neo-modernism. Faced with an ever-growing Undercurrent of Doom There's a yearning out there for answers, even if they may be wrong, even with the knowledge that they are almost certainly wrong. Failures pave the way to truth, and we're at a point as a culture, as a species really, where we can't just sit back and take potshot questions anymore.
It's who dares wins in the 21st Century, and you might start by reducing everything to base components, but you can't stop there. You can't just shamble around in a pile of cultural detrus and expect some thinly-veiled autobiographical content about your sex-life to pull it through. No siree, these days, you have to actually attempt to say something.
And in a way I hope that's what my man is doing. By presenting something in a juxtaposed context and letting it really be, in letting us hear the words of yesteryear's fallen moral tyrant, there's something to be said, something expressed. Even if it isn't correct — even if in hindsight is borders on the tragicomic — there's something being said there. As someone who's grown to know and love the "successful fail," I like that.
Go see the show. You'll dig it.