To Shakespeare’s seven ages of man, let us add age six and a half. In this phase, we’re not in second childhood yet, but some of the important things are leaking away. Teeth, still in the head. Eyes, ditto. But taste? That might be going. This age would be the “latter days of a certain kind of downtown theater troupe” or, familiarly, what’s happening to the Talking Band.
Hard on the heels of its unappetizing revival of Hot Lunch Apostles, the Ellen Maddow–Paul Zimet group reunites for The Peripherals, a daffy concert of a performance-art rock band invented specially for the occasion. Zimet gnaws on Twizzlers, enters sans pants and dons a sparkly green jacket to sing a song about resisting a stop-and-frisk. Maddow—owner of New York’s strangest deadpan—vamps it up as one of three singing house keys (in stretch silver ensembles by Olivera Gajic) or stomps through her choreography as the irascible bandleader Suzy Q. There’s no logic here, nor even the ravishment of the truly illogical—just the now-familiar sensation of a troupe playing for its amusement rather than ours.
Surrounding the faithful is a very capable little combo, including the clear-voiced Kamala Sankaram, and spectacularly talented director Ken Rus Schmoll is here to steer. But even Schmoll’s customary clarity gives way before this rambling, self-amused oddity. It’s a triumph, certainly, that the long-lived Band is still alive and talking a blue streak. Based on the last several shows, however, it’s getting harder and harder to hear.—Helen S