The Assembly re-creates a 1970s revolutionary movement for intimate theater.
Mon Jul 11 2011
Photograph: Nick Benacerraf
The Assembly's new performance piece, home/sick, at the Collapsable Hole.
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
It's a testament to home/sick's collective ethos that it's difficult to distinguish between the members of the Assembly ensemble and their characters—the fervent, insufferable, violence-drunk idealists of the Weather Underground. Actors encourage the confusion, breaking away from their environmental re-creation of a Weatherman squat to deliver personal reminiscences (sweet Emily Louise Perkins sings "Abraham, Martin and John" because she listened to it all through the construction process), and a late-stage monologue makes a rehearsal sound oddly like a subversive meet-up.
Impressively researched and clear-eyed, home/sick shows us the Underground's internal contradictions, and we see Bolshevik passion lapsing into self-delusion and then flaring up again, until we are unsure what to admire and what to deplore. The borders between watcher and actor also vanish in the haze; this frequently punishing production works best when we are experiencing a kind of theatrical Stockholm syndrome. Sitting cross-legged on pillows and sweltering in the staggering heat of the Collapsable Hole, the audience grows claustrophobic and groggy, but then we're locked into a fastidiously imagined portrait of a group-in-hiding, and cabin fever is known to be contagious.
Director Jess Chayes & Co. operate in an interestingly dangerous zone—the triangle between immersive realism, intentional awkwardness and, unfortunately, unintentional clumsiness. When does Kate Benson mean to be shrill and when is her rage meant to seem artificial, a rich girl playing at danger? The company isn't always strong enough to let us know. The women do all have wonderful moments: Brechtian Benson, Perkins as the fluttery-voiced new recruit and particularly Anna Elliot, a crop-haired St. Joan with laser-precise expressive control. The men stay a step behind, but then, perhaps that's the way with revolutions.
Collapsable Hole. Written and performed by the Assembly. Dir. Jess Chayes. 2hours 30mins. One intermission.