UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL – The Public Theatre – spend a little time wandering from theatre to theatre during this festival and you begin to think that you can feel the heart of the Public beating. Perhaps the heart of New York itself. Either way, your heart is in the mix.
Can You Hear Me Now? Could be an alternate title for Germinal an intimate and incisive piece of theatre presented as part of Under The Radar Festival at the Public Theater. As the title suggests, this piece is the smallest part of a beginning of a slice of a miniscule bit of the exact center of the Universe slowed down to a taffy pull and stretched out over 80 minutes so that these four performers have time to get inside your head and mess with your synapses.
We begin with – what else – dark. And lots of it. The kind of dark that makes you laugh, then go silent as you realize the dark is not a gimmick. It is an equalizer. Just as you realize that, of course, there is light. The kind that sneaks in like a small elusive creature and sticks to the edges of the campfire. Once light has entered, all bets are off and we begin to
I say “we” because this ingenious group of performers Arnaud Boulogne, Ondine Cloez, Antoine Defoort and Sébastien Vial perform with such grace and ease that the separation between audience and stage becomes porous. As they move through the various stages of discovering and uncovering the world, we are in lock step with them. Each discovery becomes our discovery as well.
These four, however, begin on a slightly higher plane than most of us. They can hear one another’s thoughts. For some reason this is not enough. The next step is to turn their thoughts into words projected on the wall (which opens up the international audience possibilities I suppose). Once the wall is involved, it must be deconstructed. That accomplished, the floor is the next focus of attention. It brings forth sound, followed by music followed by conceptual thought and self reflection.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Well Done Indeed.
GerminalConceived and directed by Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort; produced by l’Amicale de production (Julien Fournet/Mathilde Maillard); technical conception, Maël Teillant; technical direction by Frédérick Borrotzu and Colin Plancher; technical and stage manager, Mr. Borrotzu; lighting by Alice Dussart; sound by Régis Estreich.
WITH: Arnaud Boulogne, Ondine Cloez, Antoine Defoort and Sébastien Vial, and the voice of Mathilde Maillard.
* * * * * * * * *
EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR
Employee of the Year – The best word to describe this piece is tepid. This is the life story of a woman who discovered she was adopted and left home to find her mother. She “took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference.” Her story is told by four young actresses with a fifth added for good measure to us with an epilogue. This idea in and of itself is intriguing and out of the box, as we are all wont to say. The choice to choreograph this piece, in a style that reminds a person of the floor work performed by gymnasts on a large square matt, is incomprehensible. The actors are so busy following the choreography that they can never fully invest in the words, in the story, that they are telling.
The movements these unfortunate actors are directed to make have nothing to do with the tale. Perhaps this is on purpose. Arms are thrust forward or to the side. The actors crouch. They stride around the edge of the cream colored carpet, or cross it diagonally from point to point in order to take their position for their next line. They cover more yardage than a football player returning a kickoff for a touchdown. Step, step, step. Speak. Gesture. Speak again. Walk. Sit. Speak.
If that sounds maddening, well, it was. The event, though well-intentioned, ended up being little more than a story interrupts with a bewildering coda. Because of their commitment, these actors were able to deliver the story to us, which was not an unusual one although it wanted to be. The style of the writing was crisp and unadorned and allowed the voice of this lonely wanderer through to us.
But why we were watching it at all remained a mystery.
EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR – Written and directed by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone; Origina Songs David Cale
WITH Rachel Dosta, Stella Lapidus, ALice Levy, Violet Newman, Candela Cubria
Presented by 600 Highwaymen. Assistant Director Lilleth Glimcher; Production Manager Eben Hoffer; Lighting Supervisor Will Delorn; Stage Manager Stephanie Kay Garcia
* * * * * * * * * *
THE ART OF LUV (PART 1) Elliot
The Royal Osiris Karoke Ensemble has done its research The Art of Luv Part 1 (Elliot) and presented a video treatise that is embarrassing for all the right reasons. It is also alarming.
The embarrassment comes as these actors, who I suspect were born after the fact, pull us back into the 1970’s and 1980’s when everyone and their Great Aunt Hattie were sucked into the seminar vortex and eaten alive. There are women who promise to straighten – no pun intended – men out so that they can attract the woman of their dreams. Women want strong and decisive men, this gal tells us, and her system is fool proof. The same claim is made by the man whose repetitive droopy hand circles makes you understand that he has not taken his own advice. There is a video of a man and woman “talking.” Translation: they are sitting on stools facing one another in a room filled with observers and within minutes the man’s selective words reduces the woman to a puddle of gratitude for his ability to “see her”.
There are a few contemporary blogs such as the child who is going to tell us all about makeup right after she pauses to mourn that guy from Glee who died, but it was kind of his fault because he overdosed and well, you know.
The things that we as a species do! Perhaps a better phrase would be the things that we CHOOSE to do. All of this behavior has been sought out by these participants.
And the one alarming piece of footage to which we return over and over again is that of Elliot Rodgers who is in the mountains near Santa Barbara extolling the virtues of nature and the completely unjust fate that life has dealt him. He has no social life. For this he can find no reason because he is a magnificent person – I mean just look at him will you? He is trim and not bad looking. He even has a pair of $300 sunglasses. IT all adds up to one helluva catch. Except for the fact that he is the only one who gets it. Every day he is surrounded by beautiful college co-eds who don’t even see him. Every day he sees other guys, total losers which you know just by looking at them, with one or even two girls in attendance. How is this possible? Dude. Seriously.
What is alarming, but never mentioned in the text (brilliantly lip synced by Erik Fortunate, Sandy Thevenin and Denis Zepeda) is that Elliot Rodgers is (like all the other people in the videos) a real person. The difference between him and the others is that some time after he made this video he took his guns and his knife, killed six people, wounded 14, and shot himself.
Royal Osiris Karoke Ensemble makes no distinction between these videos – and therein lies the rub.
THE ART OF LUV (PATR 1) Elliot – Created by Royal Osiris Karoke Ensemble; Management Alexandra Rosenberg; Documentation Maria Baranova; Associate Design,/Technical Direction Eben Hoffer; Production Management Eben Hoffer
WITH: Erik Fortunate, Sandy Thevenin and Denis Zepeda
Presented by the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival – Mark Russell and Meiyin Wang Co-Directors; Oskar Eustis, artistic director; Patrick Willingham, executive director. Through Saturday at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, East Village, 212-967-7555, undertheradarfestival.com. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Link to the UTR article on WNYC HERE