Slide family shows
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., April 14, 2003) – While it may not quite revolutionize entertainment as we know it -- as Jason Trachtenburg somewhat hyperbolically suggested at the outset of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players performance at Club Helsinki on Sunday night – the unique concept proved an utterly amusing and diverting bit of fun.

When you say “slide show” these days, it conjures up the flashy, high-tech digital imagery made on a computer. But just a few years back, old-fashioned, conventional photographic slides were made by hobbyists and home photographers, who would inflict scenes of their vacations on unwitting, unfortunate friends.

The genius of the Trachtenburgs is to rescue these obscurities from the cultural dustbin and turn them into cultural artifacts by recreating a version of those uncomfortable, embarrassing living-room slide shows in contemporary nightclubs. Instantly, people’s mountain trips to Japan and their home snapshots of their partners in various states of dishabilles become “found art,” and audiences get a glimpse of their private lives like a version of reality TV through time.

What the Trachtenburgs add to the mix is their own considerably wacky, eccentric sensibilities. Father Jason Trachtenburg narrated the slideshows mostly through songs that deftly tell the story of the slides. He didn’t have to stray far from the bizarre reality of the slides themselves; he merely connected the dots in artful if rinky-dink pop-music arrangements played on his toy keyboard, with accompaniment just this side of competent from nine-year-old daughter Rachel on drums.

Mother Tina Trachtenburg operated the slide carousels – no piece of cake given Jason’s hyperactive, ADD-drenched narrative style, which always threatened to go off on a tangent that seemingly would never return to where he began.

So on the one hand, there was the bizarre aspect to the presentation itself – viewing people’s slide shows from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, and listening to narration in song. Added to that was a quirky family trio – sort of an alternative Osbournes. Family dynamics were part of the show, with Rachel growing increasingly impatient over the course of the evening with her father’s lengthy tangents and delays. You didn’t know if it was part of the act, but the point was that everything and nothing was part of the act – there was no act. It was just them.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on April 15, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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