This week I went to see a one-woman show by Kristina Wong, Going Green the Wong Way. It’s a standup-performance hybrid that dramatizes her travails driving one of the french fry cars of NELA, old Reagan-era Mercedes that were converted by a now-defunct garage called Lovecraft Biofuels to burn re-purposed vegetable oil. I went with my friend D, who is big on peak oil politics, the concern that underwrote the half of the show that was about Wong and her french fry car.
Back in 2006, in sunnier days of her big Pepto-Bismol pink ride, Wong gave an interview to the LA Weekly that located her oil of choice squarely in the alt.fuel movement as it connected to global politics in the era of Bush 43: “At least we don’t have to go to war to get it.” Alas, the car exploded in a fit of smoke and flames on the Victory Boulevard exit of the 405. Lovecraft’s reputation, in general, left a trail of cinders not far behind in the form of one- and two-star Yelp reviews (the domain name is now for sale).
So I was intrigued to find out that Wong is also a regular-old actress, of parts in fictions of other peoples’ making. This 5-minute short features some of the same DIY, retro homages to bygone technologies in the service of a genre story–melodrama, here. Melodrama is known for being the repressed genre where objects and bodies say what the characters’ lips cannot express in words. That unforgettable jar of flowers, for instance, in the time-lapse series of cold, cold meals between Charles Foster Kane and his first wife in Citizen Kane. The urn of flowers seems to get bigger and bigger, more baroque and ornate, to express the greater and more topiary nature of the obstacles that impede communication between Kane and Emily over a span of years, meal after meal. In Yarning for Love, a mysterious cache of yarn appears to first tie, then bind, a courting couple. It is a natural outgrowth of their desire, as well as a limit of their ability to move together. It starts as his magic trick gambit, like pulling quarters out of ears, but then she realizes, with a start, that she is producing it too.
I really like the way that it first surprises, then outpaces them, almost with a tangled mind of its own. And then finally, the ties that bind are cut in the most eternal of melodramatic climaxes–the girl on the tracks. Only this time, the boy lies alongside her, paralleled in limbo, and the train wreck that follows sunders not them, but their ties and their emotions. This short is at once a very of-its-moment 21st c. story about how objects define our worlds beyond us in networks of connection and mutual worlds, and an update of one of the oldest dramas of cross-cutting downloadable here). In the original, the girl is tied to the tracks and waits to be rescued by the hero. Yarning one cites the silent aesthetic and retro-ness via costume, editing and lighting, but whatever the yarn stands in for (desire, attachment, craft, contexts that bind, etc.) the yarn is immersive and all-consuming to the point that it demobilizes them both. It ultimately leads to a breakup scene that follows on a lot of exhaustion for both of them. The yarn ends up in chopped piles hanging off both of them. The only thing keeping them together is the fact they are apart. She brushes the yarn detritus off and vanishes into the distance, while he just vanishes all together.