Theater review by Helen Shaw. St. Ann’s Warehouse. By Cynthia Hopkins. Dir. D.J. Mendel. With Hopkins. 1hr 15mins. No intermission.
Those who know Cynthia Hopkins and her one-woman-and-a-band extravaganzas already know a lot about the performer herself. In other thorny music-theater works she has ruthlessly mined her self-confessed “psychodrama”—family relationships and her alcoholism. Now, after years of looking inward, she turns to encompass the globe. This Clement World, a shaggy, stunning cri de coeur inspired by an Arctic trip, tries to shake us into eco-awareness by any means necessary. And while passion deranges dramaturgy (as during interruptions by a visiting space alien), most of her crazy-quilt elements overwhelm us with their rage and hope.
Documentary footage from Hopkins’s time among the glaciers floats on screens behind her; she moves in and out of projections; she sings love songs to a boat, to the sea, even to solar power. But the unhymned resource here is, naturally, Hopkins. She radiates happiness during her haunting songs, a woman discovering innocence without ignorance. She quenches that brightness while playing an Arapaho woman slaughtered 150 years ago at Sand Creek; supertitles of the ghost’s furious thoughts appear behind her: “You’re living in the afterworld of your rape of my people.” But Hopkins’s cherubic incandescence rattles us even more effectively. In another guise, she plays a visitor from our drowned, postcivilization future. How beautiful, she says, New York looks from the bottom of a glass-bottom boat. Her joy is chilling: She can’t wait for humanity to be gone.—Helen Shaw