Theater review by Diane Snyder
Cultures collide and coexist in Ping Chong + Company’s sumptuous anthropological collage Alaxsxa | Alaska, which harmoniously incorporates puppetry, movement and video to explore America’s largest state. The region’s history—colonization by Russia, purchase by the U.S., rich oil resources—unfolds in scenes that are alternately playful and haunting; on the back wall, projections by Katherine Freer depict snow-covered landscapes and rough coastal waters. Deeply specific, the piece also touches on tensions endemic to the United States as a whole: between native and immigrant peoples, and between human beings and nature.
Alaxsxa | Alaska takes its title from an indigenous name for the region and its anglicized version. At the core of the piece are Gary Upay’aq Beaver, a Central Yup’ik dancer and drummer, and Ryan Conarro, a Caucasian theater artist who moved to the state when he was 21. In monologues, they contrast their respective cultures and evoke the roughness of life on the northern American frontier. Created collaboratively by Chong and the performers, including puppeteer Justin Perkins, this theatrical feast bursts with vitality as vast as its subject.
La MaMa E.T.C. (Off-Off Broadway). By Ping Chong, Ryan Conarro, Gary Upay’aq Beaver and Justin Perkins. Directed by Chong and Conarro. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 25mins. No intermission. Through Oct 29.