Cuqui Jerez at The Performing Garage – October 13

On Thursday, October 13 we went to the Performing Garage to check out PS122’s presentation of Cuqui Jerez’ The Rehearsal as part of the Crossing The Line Festival. It was incredible! I’m pretty sure it was totally sold out, so I don’t feel quite as bad about how late this review is going up. But if you ever have a chance to check it out, you should.

Its a pretty simple premise, on the surface. The audience enters the space and we watch two actresses rehearsing a performance piece with a tech guy on the side. A few minutes into the show a woman in the front row of the audience tells them to stop and re-do parts of the scene. Oh! Okay so then you realize that she’s the director and we’ve been watching a director watch the actresses figure out a scene. Then a few more minutes in (about 10/15) another voice comes from a few rows back – and you realize that, no, this is the director directing an actor playing a director, watching some actresses figure out a scene. And from there we just spiral into this hilarious and mind-bending vortex of recursiveness.

As the piece moves forward (and backward) the levels of “frames” around the events we are watching grow increasingly more complex – actors play characters playing actors and collaborators who are not even there, people switch identities and names as they portray each other in different scenarios – the whole show just folds into itself, and outside of itself, in surprising and delightful ways. It is frequently hilarious as what appears to be one reality gives way to another, as what appears to be a deep emotional moment or crisis, reveals itself to be staged within the context of some fictional layer of alternate reality. I was kind of amazed by the actors’ ability to keep it all straight.

And those of you who have been following Culturebot for any amount of time know how much I hate “acting”. The Rehearsal was a great example of “not-acting”. Like the work of Philippe Quesne and Vivarium Studio, Cuqui Jerez embraces a hyper-real aesthetic, where the audience is like a fly on the wall or an observer looking into a terrarium/ant farm of human behavior. ¬†Any performer knows how incredibly difficult it can be to just not-act. And then these actors – Maria Jerez, Cristina Blanco, Amaia Urra, Gilles Gentner and Cuqui herself – not only “act” in this hyper-natural style, they layer in moments of “acting” when they receive direction. So you have these incredibly subtle performances ranging from complete non-acting to hilarious over-acting and everything in between. Totally cool – surprising, funny, engaging and smart.

While overall the piece is light and fun and clever – there is a deeper dimension. The Rehearsal definitely raises questions of identity and of how we construct reality. In each of the unfolding scenes we see small interpersonal interactions that reveal a little bit about each character – one is kind of a diva, one is more serious, one more playful – we can start to anticipate how each one might react in a given situation. We seem the joke with each other, fight with each other, plan, play discuss. It is super subtle and super smooth and incredibly fascinating.

This show is part of an ongoing project called The Neverstarting Story which weaves different media together to create a larger framework around each individual project. I wonder if it will ever be all presented at once and what that would look like? In the meantime I’ll content myself with having seen The Rehearsal and wait patiently for the next show by any one of these creative and thoughtful artists.

 

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