Soho to L.I.C. to Philly and Back Again

[I’m tired, I’ll try and add links later!]

Okay so Wednesday I headed down to HERE ARTS CENTER to see OH WHAT WAR, Mallory Catlett & Co.’s new multimedia meditation on war from the doughboy’s perspective. The set looks like a WWI trench populated by the ghosts of deserters from every army – purgatory of wraiths, loss and desolation. Dark and moody, with flourishes of humor and song, OH WHAT WAR is surreal, poetic and occasionally oblique. There are some great moments – and the final effect/tableau is really cool. I spaced out a few times – there were some parts that were maybe a little too meditative and at times the text was a little hard to follow – but overall I enjoyed it. The design was really great, the actors did a great job and all-around it was a well-realized production.

Thursday night I headed over to L.I.C. for the Chocolate Factory’s season opener – Mac Wellman’s 1965UU, directed by Stephen Mellor and starring Paul Lazar and friends. (I lost the program but I know Daniel Manley was in it and that girl Heather the singer who did that show NORTH at LaMama.) Funny, surreal kind of sci-fi show about life on an asteroid with no friction and small dimensions. Performances are great, the space looks fantastic and Wellman is in fine form. It was opening night and I ended up closing down the bar across the street (something heuk) filled with free sangria and revelry with a host of downtown all-stars. It was great to see so many folks, meet new folks, catch up on the goings-on and have drunken ranting throw-down good times! But oh the morning after the night before…

Friday, god only knows how, I ended up spending the evening at Desmond’s Tavern on Park Ave. South. Hair of the dog, etc. ’nuff said.

Saturday I slept it off, waking late and catching a bus down to Philadelphia for Week Three of Live Arts. I ran into friends that said the Jan Favre piece was bad, so I don’t feel bad I missed it. I did two shows Saturday night – I saw the Jerome Bel “The Show Must Go On” and I saw Verdensteatret’s Louder.

Jerome Bel is GOD. I *loved* this show so much. I don’t know what it was like when it was at DTW a few years ago, but in Philly the crowd was totally into it and pretty active. As you may know, the show is basically regular people dancing to pop songs played on CDs. the whole lionel richie “ballerina” thing was beautiful, and you haven’t lived until you’ve been in a completely dark theater listening to a full audience sing along with John Lennon’s Imagine while waving their lighted cell phone screens in the air like candles. I should have taken notes – it was so stunningly beautiful and original. Bel can do more with non-dancers doing simple, natural movements than some people can do with the best dancers in the world. Unlike some choreographers who embrace the current trend of hostility and contempt directed at the audience, deliberate – and often pointless – opacity and off-puttingly snobbish cynicism about the possibilities of movement to inspire and transcend, Bel embraces the audience. He is hyper-aware of the theatrical context and conventions, he not only calls attention to it but completely inverts it and erases the line between audience and performer, between performance and life, we are all together in this “Yellow Submarine” this extraordinary place of heightened awareness and community. It is almost like pure democracy.

One could argue, I suppose, that some contemporary dance is fascistic in that it forcefully subjugates the audience to the choreographer’s will. Deliberately obtuse and oppositional, aggressively (and selfishly) denying access to meaning or interpretation, the choreographer imposes an impenetrable language and defies us to make sense of it. 

But Bel is so assured of his own art and ideas that he needn’t impose his will. He invites us in and uses the raw material of pedestrian movement -and everyday people – to reveal something much bigger and broader and transcendent.  JEROME BEL ROCKS!!! I will never miss another show of his ever again.

Verdensteatret’s Louder was really cool too. I was just blown away when they came to PS122 in 2005 with Concert for Greenland. I had never seen anything like it before in my life – they create these fantastic, otherworldly multimedia environments that are really difficult to describe. It is like demented object theater with noise and gizmos and robots and video and dudes with laptops… and it is freaking LOUD! To use a stupid rock analogy it is kind of like a Grateful Dead Space Jam from the late 60’s or early Pink Floyd (pre-1971) but without the songs. Just a whole bunch of crazy noise and feedback and digitally modulated squawking from dozens of speakers using digital triggers…. mind-blowing and incredible. But with robots and puppet-y things and a really big mechanical spider sculpture that moves. This show is “about” their trip to Vietnam – insofar as it is about anything.

They’ll be at PS122 the same week as PRELUDE so spark up and go see LOUDER before or between all the great PRELUDE stuff….

Monday night I’m headed to the Kitchen for Radiohole’s benefit and then who knows what the rest of the week will bring!?

Hope to see you about and about!!

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