Shattered Not Battered

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Last night’s performance from Compagnie Maguy Marin at the Newmark Theatre was very welcomed. SALVES, the performance running for two more nights offers the viewer some mystifying stuff. All in all, it is impressive and I have no doubt that moments of it will burn on to my memory for a long while.

Technically, it was a fascinating endeavor, something that appeared to have no room for error, like space flight. And the whole thing was brutal, but it was delivered with a sense of humor and without what might be considered standard shock material. It dished out left hooks and curveballs but it was really a pillow fight. The audience tittered in their seats all the way through.

Themes to consider in this piece: fragmentation, breakage, transformation, recollection, reconstruction, memory, formality, values, urgency, suspense, uncertainty, standards, community, connections, assumptions, and threads. The vast majority of the performance is carried out in amazingly brief blips. Images are created, not narratives. But if you pay close attention, you can thread that collection in to a narrative. It is not unlike seeing an extensive gallery by a single artist.

At times, I have to say, it reminded me of Ernie Kovacs. Ernie Kovacs was a brilliant American television writer in the 50’s and 60’s that hit mainstream with avant-garde comedy pieces, presenting strange ideas in a friendly way. I would say precisely that of SALVES. The jokes produced entirely through imagery via movement are nostalgic with that blend of American absurdity with impressions of French satire and British slapstick. Highly skilled dancers with grace and athleticism, rather than fumbling comedians going strictly for laughs, makes for a special composite indeed, under the direction of Maguy Marin.

The stage set is fascinating. There are four reel-to-reel tape systems apparently set on to a clock or pre-determined sequence. You can hear that tape noise and the clunky start and stop of the machines too. As an audiophile, that was a feature to my enjoyment, along with the synchronization to lighting cues and costume changes. It seems like those tapes were guiding the performance. This would have required very strict choreography, plus special adaptation to the stage shape and size. But as the flashes and scenes pushed on, I began to realize how it could be done. Mostly though, I just marveled at the effect. Something Hollywood forgets: the effects aren’t impressive until the effect is tantamount.

Oh, and by the way, if you happen to be epileptic, be sure to take an aisle seat, or just don’t go. Or if you have LSD-related PTSD, perhaps this could challenge you.

The sounds are quite interesting. It definitely fits in to this bizarre collection of images and threads and the fragmented, psychedelic nature of this performance. The tones become kind of a background buzz with so much visual poetry going on, but it seems to be a lot of musique concrete and other electronic-based sources. Sometimes actual rhythm jumps in. Especially toward the end, the sound takes on a more musical shape, yet at that very point it becomes a full frontal audio assault while the strange story reaches its great climax.

The objects are largely movable, especially the several tables on wheels that shift around, sometimes unbeknownst to you, because no matter how engaged you are with something, your mind is going to wander, then suddenly, the stage configuration has totally transformed and something momentous passed you by within ten seconds. And one cannot help but be tickled by the illusions and surprises that these tables offer.

But I really do not like to blow it with you, over-reach my interpretation, or give away special details that are so much better with surprise. It is a process of discovery, always, the enjoyment of that special kind of dance that White Bird continuously presents. As they state in the program, this is “the most surprising and suspenseful work” they have ever presented.

Go to www.whitebird.org for more information about obtaining tickets. White Bird is an Arts For All participant, providing $5 tickets for qualified individuals. And remember, don’t just support the arts, live it.




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