the shipment and some loose ends

Last night i finally got to see the latest version of Young Jean Lee’s THE SHIPMENT at The Kitchen. I thought it was fantastic. I had seen an earlier version and knew basically what to expect, but I was really impressed nonetheless. In some ways this might be Young Jean’s strongest show to date. She combines the acid wit and scathing insight of SONGS OF THE DRAGONS with the whimsy, poetry and structure of CHURCH. Also – because she is writing about something that is largely removed from her own personal experience, the SHIPMENT does not get bogged down in the often-insightful but frequently frustrating self-admonition and existential angst  present in her earlier work up through PULLMAN, WA.

In THE SHIPMENT she has pulled together all of the strongest parts of her earlier work into a taut, focused and disciplined examination of race  and identity, cleverly subverting -and indicting- the audience for its presumptions and self-satisfaction. At the same time the show is truly entertaining – very funny, very engaging, very smart and emotionally true. Not to mention her exceptional cast that uniformly delivers some of the strongest performances I have seen downtown in a long time. It was just a pleasure to watch really strong actors with such focus, presence, grace and skill, completely free from “downtown theater self-reflexive meta-acting auto-commentary” that so many downtown actors are prone to.

I saw the show with some friends from the visual arts world who remarked that the show seems almost sculptural. There is something about Young Jean’s work that reinforces the idea that this is ART – not merely theater or staged entertainment. Her work is so carefully written and meticulously staged that it is more composed than directed. We are watching a tableau vivant in which every gesture, every word, every intonation has meaning and nothing is wasted or extraneous. 

And though I’m reluctant to open up this can of worms I feel compelled to make the point that THE SHIPMENT is everything that Ann Liv Young’s THE BAGWELL IN ME wasn’t.  I commend the Kitchen for putting both of these shows in one season as a  kind of compare/contrast if for no other reason than having seen BAGWELL made me so much more grateful for and admiring of THE SHIPMENT.


Looking back I didn’t do as much at Under The Radar as I had hoped. The Tim Etchells/Jim Fletcher piece Sight is the sense… was a fun, surreal, monologue, kind of highbrow stand-up a la Thom Pain. Reggie Watts’ piece was also a fun, surreal romp through his weird imagination – nothing deep or heavy or particularly insightful but definitely a good time and well-performed. World Inferno Friendship Society’s show at Webster Hall was a lot of fun. I’m always a fan of hard-rocking conceptual mosh-pit punk rock sweat-fest dance parties. The Korean Woyzeck was okay. The party that I went to at LuEsther Lounge was great, as was the after-party at what-was-once Marion’s on the Bowery. The hangover the next day was not so great, however. I am getting older. Yikes!

This week is also busy – any recommendations on the best Inauguration Party Tuesday night?  I am cautiously hopeful and optimistic. But at the very least we can at least celebrate the end of what will come be known as The Eight Long Years.

Rock on, rock well and rock safely.

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