Must Don't Whip 'Um
St. Ann's Warehouse. Written and composed by Cynthia Hopkins. Designed by Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg. With Hopkins.
Thu Jan 25 2007
Photograph: Pavel Antonov
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
These days, “farewell concerts” don’t mean bubkes. They are usually pretexts for immediate, triumphant returns (hi, Jay-Z!) or, at the very least, a ghostwritten memoir. But when Cameron Seymour—one of composer Cynthia Hopkins’s many alter egos—says goodbye, she means it. Must Don’t Whip ’Um poses as a faux-documentary of Seymour’s final show, a bizarre, moving mix of ecstatic Sufi trance dances and country-inspired rock. Since Seymour is actually holding a wake for her Western self before vanishing completely into an Islamic brotherhood, the production doubles as its own ghostwritten memoir—but with Hopkins as both the ghost and her abandoned, haunted daughter.
Perhaps Hopkins doesn’t want to “whip ’um,” but years later, she is clearly still flogging an obsession with memory—this production’s twin, Accidental Nostalgia (2004), was also about a Seymour impersonator and her amnesiac daughter. As always, Hopkins tucks immensely personal material among the piece’s many folds: It may be a sparklingly high-tech play about layers, but she can’t resist stripping her own issues disarmingly bare. Along with her collaborators, designer-performers Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg, she blurs the edges of confession and performance, concert and play, memory and creation. But highfalutin concerns aside, her ethereal, demanding, exuberant rock, well, rocks. Backed by her genre-spanning, elastic band Gloria Deluxe, Hopkins pulls off the impossible: She makes postmodernism danceable once again. — Helen Shaw