Review: Object Collection's The Geometry
Tue Mar 30 2010
There's sad news for those of you who believed my headline: I'm not willing to tell you if The Geometry is good or bad. I can tell you that I didn't enjoy my time in the room with it, but then Object Collection doesn't prioritize entertainment—as such—in its performances. The creators have certainly succeeded in the task they have set for themselves, and there's no doubt that there's confidence and competence on display. If that's enough for you will depend directly on your affinity for the unrooted, the abstract and the surprisingly loud.
Object Collection's Kara Feely and Travis Just take much of their inspiration from John Cage and Merce Cunningham's collaborations, ones that investigated perception and chance while downplaying the conventional behaviors of music and movement. But where Cage-Cunningham projects were elegant things interested in subtraction, Object Collection shows are about addition. In The Geometry, four actors (Francesco Gagliardi, Avi Glickstein, Eric Magnus and Fulya Peker) throw tantrums, commune with vegetables, embody video games, parade solemnly and huddle in fabric as Jennifer Walshe's noise-opera screeches and cries around them. The music dips into the triangular borderland between noise, ambient chatter and the weird noises you can get out of an instrument incorrectly played. (It might be best if you just listened to this sample of Walshe's work here.) Layered onto the aural chaos, the profusion of objects and interlocking decorated rugs recalls the visual tyranny of a Richard Foreman set; the better performers (Peker in particular) also call back to the Ontological's style of mystic obscurantism. In addition (there's more?), director Feely and collaborator Just include video screens running mysterious scenes (a man kneels by a bed, but we don't know why) and divide the stage into quadrants with stiff white curtains. The audience, which sits around the outside of a square-donut-shaped stage, can therefore also be divided: In the movements in which the curtains close, we see only the corner of the stage immediately before us.
Feely and Walshe are credited as cowriters of a text that sounds like a someone flipping through TV channels or recounting some banal domestic scene. This disjointed collage so depresses our hopes for sense—even for micronarrative—that a late foray into choral chanting makes a stunning impact. But even for me (a fan of Foreman, a fan of Cunningham), the gap between their thoughts and my own was simply to wide to bridge. The curtain bit felt like a gimmick; the profusion of theatrical ideas felt panicky and unedited. Crucially, The Geometry has also not improved on further reflection. Many a tricky experimental piece works best in retrospect, when all the deliberately constructed boredom has faded and the mind can digest its impressions. In this case I remember a few things with fondness—Walshe's eyelashes fluttering with orange feathers, Pekar's avid delight while digging in a box of dirt. But even at this distance, and even of a show only 60 minutes long, most of my memories are of waiting, increasingly impatiently, for The Geometry to end.