Brian Feldman’s conceptual show, 'Dishwasher,' explores the tension between what you want to do and what you have to do 

click to enlarge Brian Feldman

Photo by Seth Kubersky

Brian Feldman

Fun fact: I first started writing for Orlando Weekly just over 10 years ago, and in my fourth-ever OW article I mentioned a live reality show called The Feldman Dynamic, featuring local actor Brian Feldman and his dysfunctional family bickering around a dinner table. A little over a year later, I devoted the sixth installment of my fledgling Live Active Cultures column to Leap Year Day, a performance art project that featured Feldman falling off a ladder 366 times.

Fast forward a decade, and I've now mentioned Feldman and his surreal stunts – from marrying a random stranger to trapping himself inside a skill crane arcade machine – on nearly 40 occasions, making him the single most covered subject of my arts journalism career.

In that time, I've followed Feldman from one unconventional venue to another, including IKEA, Walt Disney World's Carousel of Progress and the Loving Hut vegan restaurant. About the only thing I hadn't done was invite him into my own abode for a performance. Well, I can now tick another box on my bizarro bucket list, because last week my house was transformed into a stop on the Orange County tour of Brian's acclaimed conceptual experiment, Dishwasher.

PROLOGUE: The DINNER

Feldman, who relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2012 but frequently returns to Central Florida, originated Dishwasher at the 2015 Capital Fringe, earning rave reviews in The Washington Post, City Paper and from other D.C. critics. When he announced a local run, I snapped up a booking for the day before Valentine's and started plotting how to make it as challenging as possible. Step one: Bake a couple of trays of enchiladas for myself and my eight guests (including fellow theater producers, directors and playwrights).

ACT 1: THE WASH

Once dinner had been consumed, the crusty baked-on stage was set for the first act of the evening's entertainment, in which Feldman diligently scrubbed our plates while I interrogated him about his dishwashing career.

"When you're in high school, you're asked to get some kind of job to build character and have money for the weekend, so I got a job in a fast food chain," said Brian, explaining the piece's origin. "I didn't last very long, because I got cast in a show, and I was having a tough time being able to show up for work and remain in character 24/7. I considered myself a method actor back then."

Prior dishwashing performances have ranged in difficulty from a student's apartment in Georgetown that took under 20 minutes ("I felt so bad at how short it was") to a Philadelphia appearance that took more than three hours: "I didn't get to their house until 11:30 p.m. There were piles of dishes everywhere, the entire sink and counter was full ... I finished at 3 in the morning and had to bike back."

ACT 2: The MONOLOGUE

Chez moi, the dishes were spotless 44 minutes later and Feldman's hands were scalded, shriveled lobster claws. After an intermission for cake and coffee (which we didn't make Brian clean up after) it was time for the second act, in which Feldman performs a monologue of his host's choosing.

Previous audiences have selected everything from Shakespeare to "things that are completely outside the realm of theater," such as the time he was asked to read Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" with a Scottish brogue.

I decided to torture Feldman with a notorious Samuel Beckett: Lucky's nonsensical diatribe from Waiting for Godot. Cold reading the eight-minute unpunctuated rant off an iPad, Brian bravely bored through the dense gobbledygook while I chased him around my house with a hat (you had to be there).

I tackled Feldman to the floor at the finale, and kicked him out the front door while we deliberated the evening's ultimate question: Is Brian a better dishwasher or actor? There was a brief but spirited debate, and while we were all impressed with his scrubbing skills, the monologue's difficulty factor ultimately informed our unanimous verdict that his thespian talents carried the day.

So, what the heck does Dishwasher mean? "I don't want to tell anybody how to think about what they are seeing," Feldman demurred when asked, but conceded that he's commenting on the tension "between what you want to do, and what you have to do." For a follow-up, he says "anything that has 'washer' in the second half has potential to become a series, like 'Carwasher' or 'Dogwasher.'" Until then, tickets are still available at brianfeldman.com for Dishwasher's remaining dates.

Finally, Feldman's parting advice to any actors attempting to follow his footsteps into the cleansing arts: "Don't do it. Do anything other than this." That's right, leave it to the professionals.

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