Another day, another magnificent chapter of R. Kelly's serialized hip-hopera Trapped in the Closet. Chapter fourteen is up now on IFC.com, and we've asked performance artists Neal Medlyn and Kenny Mellman (Kiki & Herb), creators of the musical Kenny Mellman + Neal Medlyn = Robert Kelly, to help us sort through the brilliance.
Recap: It turns out Sylvester has been waiting in a diner for Kathy (the woman he slept with in chapter one), and they secretively discuss what went wrong with their plan to purposely get caught. Meanwhile, Twan waits for Sylvester outside before learning that Tina, with whom he has a score to settle, is a waitress in the diner. He comes in and threatens to kill her.
Medlyn: Wow! I feel like I'd picked up Charlotte’s Web and then suddenly realized I was reading a Russian novel! How many ways are there to do these episodes? I feel like that’s the big issue on many fronts today. Like how this one surprised me with its whole shooting-script-style opening. First thing you see is a pair of heels.
But it’s more than just the fact that he, somewhat amazingly, found yet another little tweak to make. This episode really makes me feel like R. Kelly realized the potential scope of this whole “Trapped” thing and decided to go all out in these ten new chapters. Plots, counterplots, further elaborations on scenarios already supposedly explored: I can’t believe it! I watch Days of Our Lives pretty religiously and love the whole form of soap operas, which is what I feel like this really is now. What’s great about it, which is also what I like about soap operas, is that you don’t get off as easily as you do with a movie with a dramatic arc. You have all these small arcs, yes, but the real structure is all these intertwining scenarios that keep folding back in and twisting and turning in on themselves without end. And you never know which ones are going to end up becoming something else so you have to keep watching. Like how R. Kelly occasionally slips and refers to Sylvester as himself, especially given that his given name is Robert Sylvester Kelly. Could that be something really meta coming our way, folks?
Also, just because it was amazing, how about Kathy crying in tune!
Mellman: So, we are entering Mildred Pierce territory. Or Edward Hopper. Okay, enough references. We're in a diner. And the waitress is important. And the drink orders are really, really important. And the waitress. Hmmm … She's seemingly recognizable. But from where? But let's order. And figure out our lives. I'm sure it's all a big misunderstanding. Maybe not. And I find myself writing in the rhythm of the song. And I can't stop myself. But maybe I'll have a coffee. With some cream. Two sugars. No wait, Splendas. And we'll figure out what's going on.
Maybe not. And suddenly more melody appears. And wait — it was a plan? "I'll make one chapter with no melody, no range, and then boom! Here it comes — the same friendly, comfortable melody that you all know!" What a genius! Didn't even see it coming. We're back in familiar territory. And then the En Vogue joke comes and I lose it. Really, I lose it. Like, I've never heard anything funnier. The reference. Oh wait, I said I would stop referencing. No wait, that's Kellz referencing. It's like sampling, but it's in his flow, not the music. Is someone ghostwriting this? Jonathan Lethem? Barbara Cartland? I don't know, but this shit is tight!
And who the fuck is Tina? And why did Twan go to prison? Wasn't Tina referenced in chapter five? And the cook with the skillet has something to do with it? Peter Greenaway? "I mean, I love Helen Mirren but where's this plot steerin'?" Too far? Probably. But I can't for the life of me keep all of this straight. It's like a Dickens novel!
Trapped in the Closet Chapter Fourteen [IFC.com]