Theater review by Helen Shaw. La MaMa E.T.C. (see the Off-Off List). By Charles L. Mee. Dir. Dan Safer. With ensemble cast. 1hr. No intermission.
In Dan Safer’s program bio, one line jumps out. “He used to be a go-go dancer and once choreographed the queen of Thailand’s birthday party.” And lo, an unanticipated poetics was born. Director-choreographer Safer’s work with Witness Relocation—at its hedonistic best in Eterniday—so bounces with body-positive exuberance that it often seems we are still at that regal celebration. In fact, Safer creates theater objects of such palpable fun I sometimes resist, wanting something more ambitious than a party onstage. Yet while Eterniday kicks up its heels, it’s also rueful, sweet, angry and strange. In Charles L. Mee’s play—another one of the flaneur-playwright’s text collages—Witness Relocation has found a beautiful match for its gossamer-light philosophy.
On a floor crisscrossed with brightly colored tape, performers strut, as heavy-lidded as dancers at a club. In sections titled “Morning,” “Afternoon,” “Night” and “Dawn,” they muse about clouds, dream about a perfect life, retell Greek tragedies and try (speciously) to link them to the Rihanna–Chris Brown saga. Meanwhile, in Kaz Phillips Safer’s film clips, Carey Harrison (son of Rex) intones Sir John Mandeville’s fantastical 14th-century travel writings. Mee encourages directors to “rewrite” his work, and Witness Relocation has happily done so, wisely excising nearly all prop-based material (through exquisite Saori Tsukada creates a virtuoso bit out of stage directions) and cutting long sequences from Alphonse Daudet’s searing diary, La Doulou. This infectiously joyful company does, it seems, shy away from dealing with pain. Its work and Mee’s fantasia dovetail precisely. It’s just that the performers, drunk on dancing, can’t yet imagine a time when they won’t be vibrant and perfect and young.—Helen Shaw