Sat Jan 5 2013
Time Out says
Posted: Mon Jan 13 2014
Coil Festival: In brief
P.S. 122, in temporary exile from its home base on First Avenue, schools us all in this sampler of avant-garde subjects, including theater works by Mac Wellman, Tina Satter, Reid Farrington, Okwui Okpokwasili, Phil Soltanoff and Brokentalkers. The shows are spread out at various venues (the Kitchen, the New Ohio, etc.), so check out ps122.org for details and to buy tickets.
Following are brief reviews of selected shows.
Bronx Gothic. Danspace Project. Created and performed by Okwui Okpokwasili. Directed by Peter Born. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission.
Take a breath, everybody! You can finally look at the week ahead without asking yourself whether the subway plus full-out running can get you from show A to show B. (HopStop: the unofficial sponsor of my festival season.) January performance nuttiness is lingeringly drawing to a close, though even with Under the Radar, Coil and American Realness mostly finished, there's a suspiciously large amount of contemporary theater-dance still out there to see. The orgy has an afterglow.
For instance, you can still see the extension of the excellent Bronx Gothic, Okwui Okpokwasili's creepy and vulnerable work at Danspace. Gothic lives up to its name—it judders with body horror, repulsion, surrender. When the audience enters the set's white-fabric rectangle, we can see the long-limbed Okpokwasili in a corner, shaking. For almost half an hour, she undergoes what she calls “quake movement,” a violent dance that involves the complete agitation of her back muscles. She's iced with sweat by the time she finally comes forward to a microphone, which makes her dry introduction, “I want to tell you something,” uproariously funny.
Okpokwasili puts the threat in triple threat. Reading from notes she claims she once passed in class, we hear what an intimidatingly strong writer she is—she makes her frightened 11-year-old self, in thrall to a beloved classmate, into a kind of terrifyingly sexual, preteen Jane Eyre. Her Mr. Rochester is another girl, whose notes—“You don't know what a blow job is?”—tantalize and baffle her (“I'm an adult now, but…”), so much so that she must occasionally spin away for more of her masochistic convulsions, falling to the floor in stages, or singing in a high, clear voice about something I couldn't quite catch. Peter Born's lamp-strewn set is the only thing that kept me from being actually frightened—it forms a white, soft-focus cocoon around her, and every time Okpokwasili seemed too intense to watch, you could look away to meditate on a frozen-aloft plastic bodega bag hovering in midair.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
Have I No Mouth. Baryshnikov Arts Center. Written and directed by Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan. With Cannon, Erich Keller, Ann Cannon. Running time: 1hr 10mins. No intermission.
The Dublin-based group Brokentalkers presents a very touching, clear piece in Have I No Mouth, now at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The performance is presented both as and on therapy, so that while we watch Feidlim Cannon and his mother, Ann, recall two bereavements, we too go through some of their therapist-endorsed exercises. At the insistence of the show's third performer—actual psychotherapist Erich Keller—we center ourselves and breathe slowly; we even blow our anger into our “anger balloons,” provided by staff.
At first, Cannon(cowriter and codirector with Gary Keegan) seems to be a reluctant participant. Keller asks Ann to walk around the theater, pointing out objects she has chosen to remember her infant son and her husband, who was killed by malpractice. Cannon protests that her aide-mémoire (such as a box that represents a baby's coffin) are “depressing,” but he too has objects that bewilder him, most movingly a slide show of his father's photographs, which are mysterious and adorably ’80s all at once. The tone throughout stays tender, so that even when events turn messy and loud (Keller eventually bandages his face to enact the vanished father, and a furious, grief-stricken Cannon pummels him to the ground), Ann is moving somewhere, as gently tethered to the proceedings as her little red balloon.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
Muazzez. The Chocolate Factory. Written and directed by Mac Wellman. With Steve Mellor. Running time: 45mins. No intermission. *** [THREE STARS]
Mac Wellman summons a world of his own in Muazzez, and as with many Wellman creations, it is unlike any we have visited before. Originally a short story in the playwright’s 2008 collection, A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds, the piece has now been repurposed as a monologue, and is performed as such (complete with the Spalding Gray–ish accoutrements of a spare table, script and glass of water) by expert longtime Wellman interpreter Steve Mellor. The writing is brightly colored with absurdism: Our narrator, for example, is an Abandoned Cigar Factory who—unlike the other ACFs on the distant asteroid for which the play is named—possesses a telephone booth and, more important, a “zygodactyly foot, as of a parrot or vulture” that allows him to dig into the cultural-geological strata of the ground beneath him.
Wellman’s witty, inventive enumeration of these layers is the playlet’s climax and highlight. (Among them are “spackle,” “crème de menthe” and “new criticism.”) But although Mellor is an exquisite storyteller, much of the text remains stubbornly literary, without the theatrical heft to support the existential crisis it details. Muazzez would make a fine half of a double bill; alone, it seems a small world after all.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE: What a short, strange trip it is.
Tyson vs. Ali. 3LD Art & Technology Center. By Reid Farrington and Frank Boudreaux. Directed by Farrington. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr. No intermission. *** [THREE STARS]
The Superman and Batman (or is it the Batman and Superman?) of boxing never got the chance to duke it out in real life, but their fight has played out in many a heated barroom debate. Reid Farrington gives the Greatest and Kid Dynamite the chance to match gloves—and psyches—in his technologically layered play, which combines simulated boxing, video, sound and speech in a dizzying, dreamlike ten-round matchup. The four performers who take turns playing both Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali impressively mirror footage of real bouts projected in front of their muscular bodies, and Farrington delves into the similarities in the fighters’ backgrounds and rhetoric. But for this boxing neophyte, at least, Tyson vs. Ali remains frustratingly opaque. The action is blustery and impressive, but unless you have a degree in heavyweight history, you probably won’t be knocked out.—Theater review by Jenna Scherer
THE BOTTOM LINE: The champ is a gorgeous specimen, but his heart just ain’t in it.
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Sat Jan 5 20132:00pm