HAVING A BALL Morgan von Prelle Pecelli, center, hoists a furry orb.

HAVING A BALL Morgan von Prelle Pecelli, center, hoists a furry orb. Photograph: Joan Marcus

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

I’ve avoided this comparison for years, but after reeling out of the synesthetic ravishment that is Astronome, I have to say it: Richard Foreman is the Jigsaw Killer. Yes, New York’s premier stage avant-gardist is just like the fiendish psycho torturer of the Saw movie franchise. Both are machine-building mad geniuses who abduct unwitting (well, sometimes) victims and subject them to highly stressful, grotesque tests of endurance, communicating through scary bass-baritone recordings. Okay, no one ever died from a thousand razor-blade cuts at a Foreman spectacle, but his synapse-tweaking assemblages can still scar you for life.

This new music-dance-theater piece, which incorporates 34 minutes of art-speed-metal composed by John Zorn (released on a 2006 CD), is the most energized and wildly fun Foreman offering in years. Gone are the mesmerizing video screens of the last three seasons; this one is all ear-pounding rock, weird voiceovers and unending manic activity by a mostly silent cast of seven. In its dense, nightmarish inventory of images, noses, fruit, wagging tongues and giant saltshakers figure prominently. On stage left, a giant face stares out from the wall; on stage right, a green-faced, feather-hatted ghoul sulks behind a glass partition. The women look like rage-filled Arabic princesses. I love it yet have no idea what it means.

Foreman is 71, but Astronome comes across as the work of a young, angry director; partly it’s due to the loud, propulsive soundscape: manic bass and drums raging under vocalist Mike Patton’s screams, babbling and gagging noises. Who knows where this great director will head next, but wherever it is, he’s not going quietly. —David Cote

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Ontological Theater. Written and directed by Richard Foreman. With ensemble cast. 1hr. No intermission.