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Richard Maxwell is beyond belief.

  • YOU'RE PROJECTING Rosalie Ann Kaplans makes a virtual appearance.

YOU'RE PROJECTING Rosalie Ann Kaplans makes a virtual appearance.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Oh, that tricky Richard Maxwell. Just when you think you have him figured out (he’s the elliptical-prose-coupled-with-deliberate-awkwardness guy!), he finds a way to leach even more supposedly vital blood from live performance. Works like Ode to the Man Who Kneels and People Without History have already shown us how his work can thrive without overt emotion, concrete narrative and actorly competence (he likes to mix nonactors with skilled deadpanners), but now Maxwell deprives us of even the actors themselves. In the thought-provoking, often frustrating installation Ads, a lonely pane of glass shimmers with ghostly 3-D projections, each of a speaker standing on a box, intoning his or her own monologue about belief. Some have been written and rehearsed (in the most striking, a saxophonist tells us that the universe resonates at B-flat and that he hopes his Zen practice will lead him to the same note); while others seem to be looser, even perfunctory responses to Maxwell’s query about what values they hold to heart.

For his own part, the director believes that theatrical “realism” is unavoidable because what is onstage is demonstrably “real”—and so there his (and theater’s) mimetic duties end. The production’s gestalt, then, is a testament to Maxwell’s own dogma, his own version of the Zen “letting go.” Soon, you feel, he’ll let the seats, the tickets and us audience members evaporate willy-nilly into his theoretical ether. Whether you want to share this ascetic meditation has a great deal to do with how elastic your own belief in theater can be, or if you find Maxwell has finally taken away one prop too many.—Helen Shaw

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P.S. 122. By the NYC Players. Dir. Richard Maxwell. With ensemble cast. 1hr 10mins. No intermission.