Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland

A VIEW TO A GILL Sarah Dahlen, second from right, unwraps a bejeweled fish.

A VIEW TO A GILL Sarah Dahlen, second from right, unwraps a bejeweled fish. Photograph: Paula Court

Time Out Ratings :

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

Something happens to the viewer’s mind about halfway through a Richard Foreman show: It begins to rebel. Although a sign hanging on the set informs you that Deep Trance Behavior in Potatolands barely more than an hour, you quickly start to wonder how long you’ve been there and when this weirdness will end. As the voice-overs repeat the same cryptic phrases, the sound effects recur and the silent performers enact their bizarre actions, you feel benumbed and agitated all at once.

If ever a title accurately described a show’s impact, this is it: Foreman’s patented troupe of zanily costumed gremlins, ritualistically moving in concert with video tableaux on large screens, portrays—and encourages—a state of hypnosis. The goal, as with all Foreman shows, is to use the tools of theater—lights, sounds, words and props—to create disorienting associations in the mind, a play that is both hermetically sealed and an open source of private signification for the spectator. While fiercely original, the results aren’t for everyone; as stated above, Foreman can seem unendurably opaque, the stuff of obsessive, random madness.

Deep Trance Behavior, Foreman’s third show to meld video with live performers since 2006, will not surprise longtime followers. The basso-profundo amplified pronouncements, the Kabbalah symbols, the queasy-erotic display of pretty young women’s faces and legs—it’s the standard material of his philosophical circus. If anything, though, the spectacle is more punishing and grim this time, as if the mesmerizer had stared too long at his own watch.

—David Cote

Ontological Theater at St. Marks Church. Written and directed by Richard Foreman. With ensemble cast. 1hr 5mins. No intermission.