Big Art Group Takes Over at Abrons

Just got back from Abrons Arts Center where I saw Big Art Group’s THE SLEEP and FLESH TONE (preview). If you haven’t seen Big Art Group before, or even if you have, now is the time to go check out what they’ve been working on.  THE SLEEP is an amazing new adventure and collaboration with Theo Kogan, and FLESH TONE, while more like BAG’s previous work, looks incredible in Abrons’ huge proscenium space.

THE SLEEP mixes object theater, rock concert and BAG’s “real time film” techniques to bring you 55 minutes of psychedelic fascination and wonder. It is adapted from M. P. Shiel’s 1901 story, “The Purple Cloud,” in which a lone explorer races to the North Pole while a poison purple cloud covers the earth. His subsequent return to the remnants of civilization drives him into a crisis of being, in a classic “last man” adventure that eerily presages catastrophic climate change.  I was sitting there watching it and thought to myself, “This is the theater of the future.”  Theo’s voice is beautiful, the music is great and the overall aesthetic is storyless-storytelling at its best. By turns oblique and explicit, it is a captivating ride that allows you to construct your own narrative in the wash of images and sound.

Since FLESH TONE is technically  in previews, I’m not going to talk too much about it. It plays with gender and identity and the decay of modern society in ways that BAG has done before. Basically they’re returning to the green screen technology they used in previous shows, and have all the actors play all the characters, constantly morphing and lipsyncing and interchanging in surprising and unexpected ways. But where earlier shows using this technique occasionally veered into chaos this one stays on the rails, creating the appearance of chaos but it is incredibly tight and well-tuned. They’ve really mastered their technique and show their skill to best effect. And like  I said before, the size and scale of Abrons’ main theater really suits the operatic scope of BAG’s work.

I know this is a busy weekend but I strongly encourage you to go down to Abrons and check out one or both shows. THE SLEEP is at 7PM and FLESH TONE is at 8:30PM so you can see both in one night easily, with some time to linger in Big Art Group’s video installation while you wait.

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