New York

Ping Chong, Brightness

La Mama E.T.C.

Ping Chong’s forte is the creation of ambience, but there’s always a message behind his beautiful, staged pictures. Though his social consciousness sometimes seems at odds with his rather whimsical sensibility, Ping Chong’s Brightness, described in the program as “a theater work for the fin de siècle,” uses that very tension to generate pathos. This is vaudeville drenched in melancholy.

A ringmaster dressed in bright white, her peaked witch’s hat lit from within, welcomes us cheerfully to “the circus maximus of the millenium,” alluding to a world of war and plague just outside. As she promises acts that will both dazzle and frazzle us––“Hold on to your entrails!”––her giddiness begins to seem part of a global hysteria. “Bubo” she’s called, suggesting bubonic plague. In the blackouts between acts, we hear cannonfire. This is a culture of the dead and disappeared. Perhaps even spectatorship

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