This Clement World

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Photograph: Pavel Antonov
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Photograph: Pavel Antonov
This Clement World

Theater review by Helen Shaw. St. Ann’s Warehouse. By Cynthia Hopkins. Dir. D.J. Mendel. With Hopkins. 1hr 15mins. No intermission.

Those who know Cynthia Hopkins and her one-woman-and-a-band extravaganzas already know a lot about the performer herself. In other thorny music-theater works she has ruthlessly mined her self-confessed “psychodrama”—family relationships and her alcoholism. Now, after years of looking inward, she turns to encompass the globe. This Clement World, a shaggy, stunning cri de coeur inspired by an Arctic trip, tries to shake us into eco-awareness by any means necessary. And while passion deranges dramaturgy (as during interruptions by a visiting space alien), most of her crazy-quilt elements overwhelm us with their rage and hope.

Documentary footage from Hopkins’s time among the glaciers floats on screens behind her; she moves in and out of projections; she sings love songs to a boat, to the sea, even to solar power. But the unhymned resource here is, naturally, Hopkins. She radiates happiness during her haunting songs, a woman discovering innocence without ignorance. She quenches that brightness while playing an Arapaho woman slaughtered 150 years ago at Sand Creek; supertitles of the ghost’s furious thoughts appear behind her: “You’re living in the afterworld of your rape of my people.” But Hopkins’s cherubic incandescence rattles us even more effectively. In another guise, she plays a visitor from our drowned, postcivilization future. How beautiful, she says, New York looks from the bottom of a glass-bottom boat. Her joy is chilling: She can’t wait for humanity to be gone.—Helen Shaw

Event phone: 718-254-8779
Event website: http://stannswarehouse.org
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