THE WOOSTER GROUP IS FAMOUS for an asymmetrical avant-garde theater in which three points make a balance. Director Elizabeth LeCompte, set designer Jim Clayburgh, and the performers—Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, Peyton Smith, Ron Vawter, and Kate Valk, along with associates—have been working out of the Performing Garage on Wooster Street since 1975, creating formally spectacular work that’s disorienting yet somehow intimately familiar. In the past few years the Woosters have grown shady and sexy in cult standing, a tantalizing combination of recognizable Hollywood faces and downtown art hardcores. Behind the glamour and Guggenheim Foundation grants is the group’s history of controversy: it’s been defunded for use of blackface (a part of its stagecraft for over ten years), called racist, proporn, antiwoman, and elitist.

As familiar as the group’s stage machinations have become for a regular

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