Theater review by Raven Snook
Usually only Wonder Woman and her ilk get origin stories. But Obie-winning performance artist John Kelly is a superhero of the downtown arts scene, a queer Renaissance rebel who's spent more than 40 years dazzling audiences as a dancer, visual artist, singer, composer, raconteur, theater-maker and drag icon. Billed as a "live memoir," his autobiographical solo show Time No Line is not a highlights reel; based on decades of journaling and creating, it's a fragmented chronicle of the pivotal moments in his artistic journey.
At times, those unfamiliar with Kelly's oeuvre, artistic obsessions and associates may wonder what the heck's happening. Names are dropped with little context (The Cockettes, Ethyl Eichelberger, David Hockney), the structure is ramshackle and the multimedia format threatens to trigger ADD. Yet the ever-elfin Kelly, still lithe and gorgeous in his sixties, exudes charm and brilliance. As he shares his artistic inspirations and legacy, he crafts new work before our eyes—chalk drawings, evocative movements, duets with his younger self via archival video—simultaneously deconstructing and demonstrating the creative impulse. (An exhibit of Kelly's art is currently on display at the nearby Howl Arts space.)
The emotional heart of the piece is Kelly's sober recitation of journal entries from 1989 through 1991, when his circle was being decimated by AIDS. It's a poignant remembrance that underscores Time No Line's message: None of us know how long we have—so if there's something you want to do, go for it. That's been Kelly's modus operandi, and look how much he's accomplished.
La MaMa (Off-Off Broadway). Written, performed and directed by John Kelly. Running time: 1hr 10min. No intermission.