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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Nothing is More: A High Black Comedy in Verse with Music for Six Actors is a farcical attempt by author Dolly Gray Landon to lampoon and ridicule the elitism and pretension of both the art world and academia. Set in the fictional world of Pimpleton State Luniversity, Nothing is More is a musical and poetic play that introduces us to the minimalist artist, the outrageous Phangbang Bonation, whose art style known as “Nadaism” has taken the art world by storm. Essentially Bonation does nothing, “nada,” and calls it art. The Luniversity has introduced a degree higher than a Doctorate, called a Stool, and there are five budding academics striving for the degree and the lucrative “Modigger Prize.” Friends Pelvin Penisovich and Purvel Schlignatz are outraged by what they consider the fraud that Bonation is perpetrating upon the artistic and academic world and are determined to see him taught a lesson and drummed out of their world, shamed and ridiculed for the charlatan he is. Hatching a plan, the pair set out to impugn and destroy Bonation’s ascendant star in the artistic heavens. Throw in a couple of impressionable and malleable young female students, a chorus and a musical score, and you have the makings of Landon’s six-act play.
My initial reaction to Nothing is More was almost the same as Pelvin and Purvel’s response to Phangbang’s non-existent pieces of art – “the emperor is wearing no clothes.” I was ready to dismiss the author's work as having a laugh at the reader’s (or theatre-goer’s) expense but I continued reading in order to give the work a chance. Whilst it may transfer differently to the stage, the surfeit of nonsensical words and passages need to be visualized in the reader’s mind before they make much sense. Nonetheless, there was an element of depth to the writing, and understanding slowly dawned on me as to some of the clever techniques used by the author to gain my attention and understanding. Some of the longer sections of dialogue had much philosophical meat on them and some fascinating insights into the way we view and cherish the opinions of “artists” and “experts,” often at the expense of our own common sense or gut feelings. Phangbang Bonation was the star of the show and as a character bounced from one extreme to the other. In many ways I was reminded of a much more extreme FlashHeart from Blackadder, morphing to the extreme pragmatism and cynicism of Blackadder himself. No, it wasn’t an easy ride, but it was one worth persevering with. I won’t comment on the musical scores inherent in the play, as a musician I ain’t. Overall… “and now for something completely different!”