COLUMNS

  • Off the Record

    ADVICE: IF YOU DECIDE TO ADAPT Joan Didion’s writing for the theater, downplay its literary origin. Her sentences inhere most naturally on the page, where they can be underlined, annotated, queried, immediately reread. Didion’s own theatrical presentation of The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), her meditation on mourning for her husband, the novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, whittled mazy streams of consciousness into a stark monologue performed by Vanessa Redgrave. The actor’s gravitas was compelling but at odds with the literary persona Didion has over decades so carefully honed

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  • Cell Tones

    IN OCTOBER, AT LE POISSON ROUGE, Meredith Monk and her five-woman ensemble presented what she called the “essence” of Cellular Songs, a new ninety-minute work that she presented at BAM this past March but has yet to record. In its full iteration, Cellular Songs interleaves song and positioned bodies and slide projections. In the nightclub setting, Monk had to abandon the staging design for an overhead view and present a distilled night of music and movement. But one video element from the longer version was retained and played right before the performance started: five pairs of hands, pointed

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  • World on a Wire

    OF ALL THE DANCE COMPANIES to hash out legacy plans in recent years—to ask what comes next after a founding choreographer’s death—the Trisha Brown Dance Company stands out for going with the flow, much in the manner of Brown’s dances.  

    When Merce Cunningham died, his company made the firm decision to fold and license his works to other groups. A few months before his recent passing, Paul Taylor appointed a successor to continue the preservation and commissioning project known as Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Mark Morris, still very much with us, announced that at sixty-two, he

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  • War of the Girls

    IN THE OPENING SCENE OF GRACIE GARDNER'S LATEST PLAY, ATHENA, the titular teenage fencer (played by Julia Greer) celebrates defeating her opponent Mary Wallace (Abby Awe) by letting out an animalistic scream. Watching Mary Wallace sob, Athena offers, “I get emotional too. Sometimes, after I lose? I’ll bump into a random person on the street, on purpose. And I won’t say sorry.” If the world demands we be either one kind of person or the other—winners or losers—Athena charts an emotional range, asking what is appropriate behavior for two young women, and what might be too much.  

    Choosing

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  • And What of the Night?

    SHE HAS A BEAUTIFUL CAT FACE—incredible feline cheekbones and a smile that reveals strangely changing teeth, sometimes fierce and snaggled and gold, sometimes smooth. She flirts with the camera as she sits at an outdoor café somewhere. The footage is casual. A voice asks, “Irene, does the camera make you uncomfortable?” She laughs.

    No! I love it!

    Don’t you understand?

    The camera to me is my beloved

    The one who understands me

    The one who wants me always

    and I give everything I have to the camera

    If you’ve ever been cornered by a Maria Irene Fornes1 obsessive, you’ve heard her described as “

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  • Secret Side

    THE FIRST TWO DECADES of the twenty-first century have taught us that, in the future, everyone who already was famous for fifteen minutes will be exhumed from the archives and remixed, reissued, or rebooted. In an age of curated ephemera mediated by the cliquish logic of hipster exclusivity, I’m surprised that Nico’s face doesn’t cross my Tumblr dashboard more often. Then again, I mostly follow gay porn blogs on Tumblr. At this timely juncture arrives Nico, 1988, a new biopic written and directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, with Trine Dyrholm in a spectacular, uncanny performance as Nico. The film

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  • Sexy M.F.

    THE NIGHT I CAUGHT BRIDGET EVERETT performing at Joe’s Pub with her band The Tender Moments, the lip of the stage—where brave souls can opt to sit under the tacit agreement that they might not return home with their dignity—looked like a scene lifted directly from a middlebrow empowerment comedy. There sat an array of average-looking 9-to-5ish types straight out of central casting—employees of life, as my friend the artist Becca Blackwell might say. Panning out further, I saw summer-casual wearing homosexuals and attendant gal pals all cheerily doing their part to exceed the two-drink minimum.

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  • The Material World

    WHEN BASIL TWIST'S SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE debuted in New York in 1998, it quickly ascended as a classic work of downtown theater, playing for an unprecedented eighteen month run in the basement space of HERE—an unheard of success for a performance that was billed simply, curiously, as “an abstract puppet show.” At that time there was nothing quite like it, and twenty years later, a stunning revival proves that there’s nothing quite like it still—frankly because there is no other artist quite like Basil Twist.

    Twist is both a third-generation puppeteer and a third generation Basil (his real name).

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  • Of Goddesses and Monsters

    AT THE MOMENT OF THE SPRING EQUINOX on March 21st, I was standing in the basement coat check room of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The place was closed—it was 12:15pm on a Tuesday—so there weren’t any coats, but there was a little line of toaster-sized “dirt” clod sculptures sitting on the counter. A crowd of vernal worshippers and theater-fans had followed a team of celebrants here from the massive glass-and-concrete lobby upstairs, where a gaggle of women dressed like Russian space peasants had oriented us according to civil time, nautical time, and astronomical time. We had been admonished

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  • Self and Others

    PRIVATE COLLECTION is a phrase charged by museum tombstones, which display information about an artwork that is otherwise inaccessible to anyone beyond the “private” owner. It connotes a kind of exclusivity, a proprietary right to viewership, a generosity in extending that privilege to the viewer. The term also echoes private recollection, memories and personal experiences replaying in fragmented form. As the title of Lauren Bakst’s recent performance at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, the phrase and all of its associations formed a framework for something that, as Bakst declared, was “not a

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  • P.S. I LOVE YOU

    “ARROGANT ASSHOLE,” spits a man, not realizing that the words and their inflection do more to indict speaker than subject. Their target is, ostensibly, Yve Laris Cohen, the artist. We are sitting in the middle of Laris Cohen’s performance P.S. 122 (2018) on opening night, and I wish everyone would shut up.

    Laris Cohen spends most of P.S. 122 stationed far upstage. The work’s title conjures the previous name of the hosting venue, which has recently been rebranded, to an admixture of chagrin and nostalgia, as Performance Space New York. He abandons this post only occasionally—in this instance,

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  • All Together Now

    MILKA DJORDJEVICH'S ANTHEM sneaks up, quite literally, on its audience. At the Chocolate Factory Theater, we the audience had taken our seats around a parquet dance floor when from a back hallway, four women appeared, step-touching toward us in conga-line formation. Their clothes seemed plucked from a 1970s closet: a gold velour jumpsuit for one dancer; suspendered pants for another; and for everyone, black jazz shoes. They took their time, as unrushed as the iridescent soundscape anointing their entrance.

    Were they at a disco? A bat mitzvah? Maybe a high school dance, but then there would be

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