• Fooling Buddha

Middle-way Radical

foolingbuddhacrosslegBeing the first Buddhist kid on the block in 1970’s, our young trickster learns to battle the bully with magic and misdirection; he soon discovers every miracle has its price.  Written and performed by David Kovac, Fooling Buddha is a memory play set in working-class Milwaukee at a time when the region was primarily known for three things:  beer, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s obsession with Communist infiltration, and the bombing of Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin (for decades, the single largest act of domestic terrorism in the United States).  The author portrays 10 characters, ranging from a taunting, pre-teen Eddie Dunn — the neighborhood nemesis — to The Amazing Bondini, an unsuspecting philosopher who runs the local magic shop.  Throughout this evening of myth, mystery and infinite jest, we ride orbits of cosmic conversation around the family dinner table, witness the triumphs and disasters of an apprenticing magician, and encounter an assortment of eccentrics who end up comprising the faculty of Samuel Morse Junior High.  As the story unfolds, so does the set.

Call & Response 

foolingbuddhshopThe Chicago Reader recommended Fooling Buddha, calling it a “sweet, unpretentious coming of age story,” and The Daily Herald proclaimed it “witty, joyful …  a droll delight.” Buzz Chicago declared Fooling Buddha “an evening of highly intelligent and uplifting storytelling.”  The play offers plenty of clever jokes and tricks, but it’s philosophical queries prove highly resistant to both verbal and physical misdirection.  The climactic battle between the Bully and the Buddha, for example, becomes all the more vexing once we discover that both characters ultimately exist within our own minds.  This prompts the narrator to ask “how can I become stronger than my own negativity?”  In another abrupt paradoxical turn, we hit an invisible wall of truth:  “if you could improve yourself, you would already be improved.”  The final meditation scene concludes with the revelation that all words are magic words; not so much because they make something out of nothing, but because they make something out of everything.  Catey Sullivan of Chicago Theatre Beat, who deemed Fooling Buddha “both ridiculously specific and truly universal,” advised curious theatergoers: “Bring a pencil. Seriously. Bring a pencil. You will want to take notes.”

Devising = Revising

foolingbuddhschoolFooling Buddha began as a series of humorous monologues set to music and punctuated by demonstrations of magic, juggling and mind reading; first presented publicly in 2007 at a Buddhist culture center in Chicago’s South Loop.  These routines were expanded in 2011 (an original composition by jazz musician Tim Green was also added) and the piece was staged by Alexander Marshall in the little theater behind the historic Magic Inc. on Lincoln Avenue.  Most recently, First Folio Theatre — an Equity company located just outside of Chicago — fully produced a revised version of Fooling Buddha in conjunction with their 20th Anniversary Season in 2016.  This production was developed and directed by Patrick New.