COLUMNS

  • Ain’t We Got Fun?

    THERE’S NOTHING VERY COOL about going to see an eight-hour production of The Great Gatsby. I tried to get it past the kultur cop in my head by looking into various alternate interpretations of the play, my favorite being one originated by the now dean of Medgar Evers College, Carlyle V. Thompson, back in 2000, when he argued that Gatsby was in fact a light-skinned black man passing as white. Thompson cites clues like the forty acres that Gatsby owns, the withheld obscenity that gets scrawled on his front steps, the way Tom Buchanan’s racist claptrap helps frame the novel (“If we don’t look out

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  • American Heroine

    TINA SATTER/HALF STRADDLE'S IS THIS A ROOM is a verbatim enactment of an audio recording made by Special Agent Justin G. Garrick, the FBI officer who arrested Reality Winner for releasing classified information. You remember that, right? The world has been remade a thousand times since then, but we shouldn’t forget that we only know the Russians tried to hack our voting machines because a twenty-five-year-old intelligence specialist mailed reports (circulated internally at the NSA) to The Intercept in 2017.

    The show stages Winner’s encounter with the FBI team the day they show up—presumably with

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  • Now Ear This

    ON A RAINY SUNDAY MORNING IN DECEMBER, I took a walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park from St. Ann’s Warehouse via Hear Their There Here, a free audio guide which I’d downloaded onto my iPhone. Conceived by theater artist Geoff Sobelle—co-artistic director of the performance group rainpan 43 as well as a company member of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company—with sound design by Gareth Fry and app design by Jesse Garrison, and commissioned by St. Ann’s—this interactive sound piece weaves together an aural experience of the park from hundreds of interviews Sobelle and his cohort conducted with

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  • Those Women Who Destroy the Infinite

    TWO PUDDLES, HYPNOTIC AND IRIDESCENT; ALL SURFACE, NO DEPTH. I watch a scrum of dancers make them, hunched and sobbing, emptying themselves. A knee drags through the wet. Afterward, as coats are slung across shoulders, the tears slowly return to air.

    Elements of the theater’s infrastructure, seemingly evaporated too, had been strategically removed: light rigs withdrawn, pipes displaced, the risers diarticulated and strewn about in clumps. The effect is the renovation of mood. Starkly cavernous, the changed architecture left both audience and performer to rattle around inside of it.

    Moriah Evans’s

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  • As Wastage

    THE SIREN RISES IN A LONG WAIL. It climbs through the darkness, sounding the alarm that The Head & The Load has begun. At first, the tinny signal of distress seems to emanate from a machine, but as it swells, it modulates into a multitude of voices of varying timbres, and vocalist Ann Masina, her mouth open in full-throated song, is spotlighted. The noise subsides, a pause to register that it is humans who summon us: not a machine. And from that small correction of understanding—the invitation to distinguish between a person and a tool—we are called to remember the difference between

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  • Dear Darling

    MARY MARGARET O’HARA DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK.

    If you had the talent of Billie Holiday and the aesthetic sensibility of Captain Beefheart, you probably wouldn’t give a fuck either. Fortunately, everyone at Issue Project Room for her one-off, sold-out return to New York is there to watch her not give a fuck—that’s what she does. She hasn’t performed in the city in ten years. She walks onstage holding a bugle. She interrupts herself at least once during every song, often simply ending in the middle. She yelps, yowls, mutters, and walks away from the microphone. There are four other musicians

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  • Your Groove

    THE RIGGED SOUND OF TECHNO is a language, dense with sentiment and context. In October, as part of its ongoing “Posthuman” series, Performance Space New York hosted “Man Machine,” a conversation between the Detroit-based electronic-music collective Underground Resistance and artist Kevin Beasley. Founded in 1989 by Jeff Mills and “Mad Mike” Banks, later joined by Robert Hood, Underground Resistance was militant in its rejection of “programming by mediocre mainstream music and public institutions.” Now they are the inheritors and protectors of the “original” techno sound. They were anti–status

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  • 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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