Incubator (OHT): Helsinki Syndrome’s “True North”.

photo: Mike Hipple

The second company invited by the Incubator curators to perform at the Ontological Hysteric Theater was Helsinki Syndrome, a performance art collective based in Seattle. I went to their last performance this past Saturday and found light plastic blankets awaiting the audience on the seats. The program warned us: there will be (stage) blood!

The performance turned out to be an icy meditation on solitude and alienation, mixed with Gregorian-like chants of hallelujah and an electronic bear-puppet who sang with the airy voice of Marlyn Monroe. I particularly enjoyed the light design for the piece, made up of movable flashlights occasionally covered in light, transparent plastic to form unexpected icebergs on the stage. The piece created aesthetically seductive tableaux, playing with light and dark and with the spotlight-power of head lamps to guide the audience into different worlds. All three performers brought different qualities to the piece, playing different roles and constantly shifting in the relationships to each other. (The performers were Rachel Hynes: Co-Director, Writer, Ensemble; Mike Pham: Co-Director, Writer, Ensemble; and K. Brian Neel: Ensemble). In the midst of breaking glass and the crushing of ice, Hynes’ soft tones and gentle singing voice particularly surprised me.

True North was an exciting taste of work done by a collective coming from the West coast, a reminder that there is plenty of dark humor and doubt on the other side of the country! Helsinki Syndrome seems to fit with a generation of artists very much in line with the abstract composition style of directors such as Richard Foreman, but more inviting towards their audience- choosing themes such as solitude and obsession and making them somewhat readable for the spectator while still working with non-linear, interdisciplinary performance. Thumbs up to the Incubator crew for bringing more interesting work to the city!

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