The best that can be said of "Narcissus Bound," a one-man play about Surrealist painter Salvador Dali, is that it does not seem to be barking up the wrong tree. Dali is as much a public showman as he is an artist, and his flamboyant personality and outlandish antics certainly make him a legitimate candidate for one-man showhood.
William Freimuth's 45-minute work, currently playing at Source Theatre's Main Stage, is embryonic, however. It contains a number of amusing anecdotes and some provocative reflections, along with such purposeful mystifications, ringingly delivered, as "I am Surrealism. Nothing changes me. Everything modifies me."
But Freimuth, who also acts the role of Dali, has yet to mold the material significantly so that it amounts to more than snippets from a scrapbook. Set in 1939, the show unfolds in a prison cell in New York, in which Dali was briefly incarcerated for taking after Bonwit Teller. (A Surrealistic window display he had created for the department store was changed without his knowledge, so he destroyed both the display and the window -- a characteristically attention-grabbing act.)
Freimuth's Dali -- a dapper creature with his dark suit, boutonniere, slicked-back hair and pencil-line mustache -- tells us a bit about his childhood and somewhat more about his early forays into Surrealism. You expect it to be strange, and it is. What is surprising is the humor. While Dali is too calculating to be a blithe spirit, the outrageousness of his exploits constitutes a source of entertainment that Freimuth mines with periodic effectiveness. Right now, the performance has more zest than subtlety, but the actor obviously relishes his subject.
Director J.W. Cooke incorporates some slides of Dali's paintings into a multimedia staging that is perfunctory at best. Still, one does not want to write off "Narcissus Bound." It's a long way from hitting pay dirt, but with the proper care and feeding, it could evolve into a solo piece along the lines of "Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein."
On the same bill is a reprise of "Homer," in which Civil War photographer Mathew Brady records the carnage of battle to the fury and disgust of a captain of the Union forces. When it premiered at Source last winter, the one-act play by Thomas Gibbons struck me as effective, but limited -- an episode, if you will, in search of a larger dramatic context.
The current program runs through Sept. 21.