Andy’s Week In Shows

Okay gang! Jeremy and I have been racing around town seeing tons of shows, meeting curators and artists and just generally living it up! It has been an exciting and invigorating time with lots of great work and great people. Most of the shows continue through this week so if you haven’t dipped your toe into the sea of shows, you still have time to see them! Get out there!

My week started off on Wednesday night with Diciembre from Chile’s Teatro en el Blanco. In writer-director Guillermo Calderón’s play, a young solider (Jorge) returns home to celebrate Christmas with his pregnant twin sisters. The sisters’ deeply opposing views on the fictional war between Chile and Peru come to a head when it is revealed that Jorge is planning to go AWOL. The show is deceptively simple – the entire action takes place at the dining room table – but the actors are remarkable as they take on different characters and the convoluted plot unfurls. I have to admit, I wish I spoke Spanish – the supertitles were a little wonky the night I saw it and it was sometimes difficult to follow. You can tell that the writing is really strong – it would be great to understand it in the original. Still, this magical realist kitchen sink drama is fascinating and rewarding.

After Diciembre I raced over to PS122 to see Rabbi Rabino, Argentinian director Vivi Tellas’ performance piece using two real-life (non-actor) rabbis. It was frequently funny and touching, and maybe for people who don’t have a lot of insight into Jewish life it could be educational. As someone who grew up in a very Jewish household and whose immediate family is deeply observant, I found the show to be a little simplistic and playing to stereotypes. The rabbis themselves are likable and entertaining – but its not enough. While I laud the impulse to humanize the iconic figure of “rabbi” – and to portray their untold lives onstage – the directorial lens was facile and simplistic. Good effort, good fun, but not quite a home run.

Thursday I went to the Under The Radar Symposium which featured a great keynote from Ben Cameron. You can read it here.

The first show I saw that day was Too Late! antigone (contest #2) by Italy’s Motus. Riffing off of the Living Theater’s Antigone, the conflict between Kreon and Antigone is reimagined as a conflict between two willful individuals, intertwined with the actors – as themselves – negotiating how they are going to perform the story. Kreon frequently wears a Berlusconi mask and the two physically adept performers struggle with each intensely and acrobatically. A kind of minimal physical-theater punk rock show, it is an intense high-octane show that flirts with big ideas while never quite digging under the surface.

After that I ran down to Dixon Place to check out the French collective Ildi/Eldi‘s Vice Versa, which is based on the story Cock and Bull by Will Self. The actors are French, but perform admirably in English, though at times it was pretty funny to hear their pronunciation. The story is about a guy who grows a vagina on the back of his knee and starts an affair with the doctor who diagnoses him. Great performers, silly premise. Clocking in at about 45 minutes its more like a sketch than a fully-realized show. Light stuff but a good night in the theater.

After that I headed over to LaMama for what was, undoubtedly, the highlight for me – Gob Squad’s Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good). Starting from a very simple premise – re-enacting the Andy Warhol film Kitchen – the show gradually unfolds into something complex and beautiful. It explored issues of representation, documentation, history, identity and more in subtle, touching and profound ways. As the ensemble’s efforts to enact the Warhol era slowly spin out of control, they bring up audience members to play themselves, receiving instructions via headset. Willfully questioning – and undermining – the audience/performer dynamic, engaging the idea that “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” Gob Squad condenses time and folds in on itself. Remarkable. Amazing. Totally transcendent – and, sadly, over. Let’s hope somehow it comes back to NYC so more people can experience this extraordinary work.

Friday I saw Correspondances, a dance-theater piece created by Created by Kettly Noël (Haiti/Mali) and Nelisiwe Xaba(South Africa) which ended with a stunning sequence of sensory overload as a video montage played and the women were drenched in milk showering down from surgical gloves – crazy! Then, hustled over to 440 Studios for Bonanza by the Belgium-based team Berlin. This was not a performance but rather a five-channel video installation exploring the very real town of Bonanza, Colorado, which has only 7 inhabitants. As a film its a pretty interesting documentary. I’m not sure I accept the premise that this is performance, however. Maybe long-form video art. But so it goes.

Saturday took us to Abrons Arts Center to see Tarek Halaby’s An attempt to understand my socio-political disposition through artistic research on personal identity in relationship to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Part One. Halaby is an entertaining performer and his exploration of his identity is as engaging as it is, at times, disturbing. He tells the story of his awakening to the plight of Palestine – how it became real to him, though he grew up Palestinian in America, far removed from the conflict itself. Essentially it is an autobiographical solo show and if it had been advertised as such, I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it as much. But because it was promoted as “dance” – somehow I was open to seeing it through a different lens. That’s a whole topic for discussion unto itself. And of course it is politically relevant and a not-frequently-heard perspective. I’d like to see what he does for Part 2.

After that I saw John Jasperse and Faye Driscoll show works-in-progress (fun!) but left before Miguel Gutierrez because I had seen his show before at CPR. (You can read my write-up of that show here.

Saturday night took me back to the Public for Universe’s Ameriville. Nobody does spoken-word performance/theater better than Universes and this is an incredibly polished and well-composed show. The performers are all exceptional, the music is great and the ensemble moves from sequence to sequence seamlessly. It is like one symphony with different movements. That being said – it starts as an examination of Katrina and its aftermath and then kind of expands into every ill currently plaguing America. A bit too much of a reach – the show loses focus and power as it attempts to take on too much. The audience I was with stuck with it and was dancing and clapping along by the end, so maybe I’m just a grinch. Good stuff, but could use some editing.

Sunday took me to the Hudson Hotel for Travis Chamberlain’s site-specific staging of Tennessee Williams’s Green Eyes. This short one-act is a psychosexual battle royale between Erin Markey and Adam Couperthwaite as a husband and wife on their honeymoon. The husband is a Vietnam-era solider on leave and the two are engaged in a brutal and erotic test of wills. Once again, it feels a bit more like a sketch of an idea than a fully-developed work, and that is very possibly what it is. But it shows how adventurous and surreal Williams became in his later years, even if he didn’t fully realize his vision. Markey brings a feral sexuality to the role that drives the twisting plot forward like a runaway freight train. Chamberlain and his designers have created a hermetic world that is at once erotic and violent, surreal and bleak. I think it is sold out but if you can get a ticket, check it out.

After that I headed down to PS122 to see Jack Ferver’s Rumble Ghost. Intertwining scenes from Poltergeist with movement sequences and a group therapy session, Ferver playfully – and spookily – explores the terrain of subconscious fear. It is one of the rare shows that I actually wished were longer. When it concluded, at just under an hour, I was left wanting more.

So the first “week” of shows conclude. Here’s my schedule for this week:

Annie Dorsen’s Hello, Hi There at PS122
Show Your Face at LaMama
Holiday at PS122

JUMP at The Public

The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church at St. Ann’s Warehouse

Devotion at The Kitchen

Daniel Fish’s Tom Ryan Thinks… at Incubator Arts Project

Hope to see you out there!!!!

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