Reread Another

Theater, Experimental theater
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Reread Another: Theater review by Helen Shaw

The Target Margin production of Reread Another, one of Gertrude Stein's mysterious prose-plays, delights the senses. It also baffles and even bores; then just when you're righteously cheesed off, it throws its hands up in mock dismay. It's Stein in 1921, in the full flush of her “cubist” dramaturgy, so the concept of a play is merrily undermined, and language itself teeters on its pins. But despite the fear that the very name of Stein casts into many a heart, Reread is a modernist tiger with the soul of a pussycat. It's only 50 minutes long and director David Herskovits has cast three winning performers—Ugo Chukwu, Clare Barron and Purva Bedi—all of them goddamn adorable.

The full name of Stein's text-object is Reread Another A Play to Be Played Indoors Or Out I Wish to Be a School. It's a collage of sweet, possibly erotic, exchanges like, “How can flowers sweat? The dear little thing it just gets hot,” and incomprehensible comments by “the first chauffeur” and “second Mountain.” Puns jog alongside (and sometimes entirely overtake) unrelated micro-scenes among housepainters, dirigibles, sailors and bankers, and the deliberate, emphatic sentences are punctuation-free and faux-naïve: We could be listening to a glitchy Speak-and-Spell programmed by Joyce.

David Herskovits and his company are made for this kind of work. There's no one else so genuinely transported by intellectual pleasures, and in the vacuum left by Richard Foreman's departure, no one else with this particularly baroque, downtown, hyper-ornamental aesthetic. As ever, the design is extraordinary: Scenographer Ásta Bennie Hostetter piles pattern on top of pattern, and the costumes (which look like bargain versions of Dries van Noten couture) layer silk robes on plaid dickies on Breton stripes.

Stein's Carrroll-esque quality benefits from a production so steeped in whimsy, and the writer's astringency is sugared by the company's solemn-child approach. The actors treat everything with hilariously grave attention, up to and including a midshow nap; Chukwu can't believe that someone keeps dimming the lights between scenes, and his escalating frustration is a key delight. Hostetter also covers her set with shreds of bright wrapping paper, which makes the whole thing feel like the aftermath of a toddler's birthday party. Yes, theatrical and linguistic conventions have been torn apart here, and somebody has made a mess. But it's all evidence of such enthusiasm! You can almost feel the vibrations of Stein, stomping into the avant-garde all those years ago, ripping into sentences and finding the presents within.—Helen Shaw

The Brick (Off-Off Broadway). By Gertrude Stein. Directed by David Herskovits. With ensemble cast. Running time: 50mins. No intermission.



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